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Loblaw looks to get in on medical marijuana business

Loblaw looks to get in on medical marijuana business

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Galen G. Weston wants in on the medical marijuana business.

Weston, the head of the country’s largest drugstore and grocery chain, said Thursday that pharmacists are well-positioned to dispense the drug in a safe manner.

“We’re an industry that is extremely effective at managing controlled substances,” said Weston, Loblaw’s president and executive chairman, following the company’s annual general meeting Thursday.

“It gives pharmacists the opportunity to work directly in real time with patients as opposed to doing it through the mail, working on their doses and making sure it actually has the therapeutic effect that it is intended to have.”

Although he doesn’t see any “safety or credibility” issues with the current mail system, where patients are sent the drug from a licensed producer, Weston said patients would be able to receive more consultation if the dispensing was done face-to-face.

If given the go-ahead from Ottawa, Loblaw would be open to dispensing medical cannabis in all forms, at all their Shoppers Drug Mart and grocery pharmacy locations, Weston added. The company operates about 1,700 pharmacies under its various banners.

The pitch from Weston is not entirely new. A spokeswoman for Shoppers Drug Mart delivered a similar take in February in its efforts to persuade the federal government to allow pharmacists to sell medical marijuana.

Still, his comments mark the latest sign that the pot industry is increasingly seen as a legitimate way for businesses to make money in a hyper-competitive retail sector.

Loblaw is not directly lobbying Ottawa on the issue, but it is supporting the Canadian Pharmacists Association in its efforts.

Last month, the professional group updated its stance, saying it had growing concerns over what it calls a “lack of clinical oversight” in the use of medical cannabis if pharmacies don’t play a “front-line role” in providing access to the drug.

The Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada, whose members include London Drugs, I.D.A. and Rexall, also holds a similar view.

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