Canadian Pharmacists feel left out of marijuana legislation

OTTOWA, Ontario, Canada — The big news coming out of Canada Thursday was the introduction of a bill in the House of Commons whose passage would mean the legalization of recreational marijuana. And while the legislation does maintain a separate program for medical marijuana, a key addition that stakeholders wanted to see is missing, namely, the inclusion of pharmacists in medical marijuana dispensing.

The Canadian Pharmacists Association issued a statement Thursday expressing its disappointment in the legislation leaving pharmacists out of its language.

“CPhA believes that a frontline role for pharmacists in the management and dispensing of medical cannabis is in the best interest of patient safety,” the organization said. “Pharmacists have the necessary expertise to mitigate the potential risks associated with using medical cannabis, including harmful drug interactions, contraindications and potential addictive behavior. By not moving to ensure appropriate clinical oversight, CPhA believes that patient health will continue to be at risk under the current system.”

The organization pointed to an abacus poll from February 2016 that found 52% of Canadians saying their preferred method of medical marijuana distribution would be through a pharmacy. Another 23% listed pharmacy as the second-most preferred distribution method.

The Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation recognized that patients’ use of cannabis is different from recreational users. The Task Force also recognized that pharmacists can play an important role in the management and distribution of cannabis for medical use,” CPhA said. “CPhA believes that ensuring public health and safety must be the priority for the medical cannabis regime. Maintaining the status quo, without a role for pharmacist dispensing, runs contrary to international best practices and misses the mark to improve patient safety.”

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