Canadian Pharmacists Association
Canadian Pharmacists Association

Medical Cannabis

Mitigating risk and enhancing safety

As medication experts, pharmacists are best equipped to provide clinical advice to patients and appropriate oversight in the safe management and dispensing of medical cannabis.

Pharmacists have the necessary expertise to mitigate the potential risks associated with medical cannabis, including harmful drug interactions, contraindications, and potential addictive behaviour. Pharmacists have an existing infrastructure that is already in place to handle controlled substances and have a secure supply chain to limit diversion.

Pharmacist management and dispensing of medical cannabis is the best option to strengthen any future framework and protect patient and public safety.

Medical and recreational cannabis: A distinction with a difference

Although derived from the same plant, there are important differences between medical and recreational cannabis. For example, medical users may seek out strains and forms to alleviate symptoms while minimizing intoxication (primarily through cannabidiol or CBD), whereas recreational users may primarily be taking cannabis for euphoric effects (i.e. strains with higher THC levels).

Practice Development Resources

Although pharmacists are not dispensing medical cannabis at this time, many Canadians seek out health advice from their pharmacists. It is important for pharmacists to understand how their patients may use and access medical cannabis in order to provide effective medication management. CPhA is developing a suite of resources on medical cannabis to support pharmacists across the country.

Reports and Research

Research supports pharmacist dispensing

Independent research conducted by KPMG outlines a number of key benefits that could be expected from pharmacist management and dispensing of medical cannabis.

An analysis by the Conference Board of Canada concludes that a pharmacy dispensing model for medical cannabis is likely to be more cost-effective for patients than the current dispensing model through licensed producers.    

What Canadians are saying

Canadians are strongly in favour of pharmacist dispensing of medical cannabis and recognize that it would improve patient safety and oversight.

Government Submissions

Consultation on the Potential Market for Cannabis Health Products (September 2019)

CPhA’s submission in response to Health Canada’s consultation on the potential market for Cannabis Health Products (CHPs) includes our view that a pathway to market for CHPs is necessary considering the growing public interest in these products, currently being sourced by the illegal market. CPhA believes that cannabis-based products that make health claims supported by evidence have no place in the recreational drug retail market or anywhere that patients cannot seek expert guidance from health care providers.

Consultation on the Strict Regulation of Edible Cannabis, Extracts and Topicals (February 2019)

CPhA submitted a brief in response to Health Canada’s consultation on the strict regulation of edible cannabis, extracts and topicals. The submission outlines CPhA’s general support for the proposed amendments that focus on public protection and quality-controlled production of these forms of cannabis edibles, extracts and topicals.

Proposed approach to the regulation of cannabis – Health Canada consultation (January 2018)

CPhA submitted a brief in response to Health Canada’s proposed approach to the regulation of cannabis. The submission underscores CPhA’s position that medical cannabis users should be supported and protected in the medical stream, through appropriate access, affordability and clinical oversight by pharmacists, once recreational cannabis is legal.

Cannabis Legalization – Standing Committee on Health (August 2017)

CPhA submitted a brief expressing its views on Bill C-45: An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts. The CPhA submission underscores our existing position that two different streams of cannabis – medical and recreational – must be maintained once cannabis is legalized in 2018.

Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation (August 2016)

CPhA submitted a brief in response to the issues outlined in the Task Force’s discussion paper ‘Toward the Legalization, Regulation and Restriction of Access to Marijuana’. The submission outlines CPhA’s priorities and recommendations for the legalization and regulation of marijuana, informed by research and consultation.

Recent Activities and Statements

Pharmacists urge Senate to include more support for patients as they consider Bill C-45 to legalize cannabis
May 24, 2018 –Pharmacists are asking the Senate to include more support for patients who use medical cannabis by ensuring that there is a clear differentiation between the recreational and medical cannabis streams.

Pharmacists disappointed with proposed cannabis regulations, concerned with impact to medical cannabis patients
November 22, 2017 – The federal government’s proposed regulatory approach to cannabis continues to miss the mark on several key issues, displaying an ongoing lack of concern for medical cannabis patients.

CPhA launches medical cannabis resources to support pharmacists, enhance patient care
November 15, 2017 – CPhA launched its first medical cannabis continuing education program to help pharmacists across Canada respond to the evolving health care needs of their patients.

CPhA disappointed medical cannabis regime does not enhance patient safety
April 13, 2017 – While CPhA is pleased that today’s federal legislation maintains a separate stream for medical cannabis, we are concerned and disappointed that the legislation fails to enhance patient safety by providing appropriate clinical oversight in the management and dispensing of medical cannabis in Canada.