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.
- Introduction to Medical Cannabis and Cannabinoids (CE program - 1.0 CEU)
- Medical Cannabis: Applying the Evidence to Practice (CE program - 2.0 CEUs)
- How to Help Patients Find a Safe and Effective Dose (Practice tool)
- How to Start the Conversation (Practice tool)
- Cannabis for Medical Purposes Evidence Guide
- CPhA Monograph on Cannabis in CPS and RxTx
- NEW! Having the “pot talk” with your teens (Patient handout)
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.
- Learn more: Improving Medical Marijuana Management in Canada (KPMG, March 2016)
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.
- Learn more: The Cost of Medical Marijuana in Canada: A Pharmacy Dispensing Model and the Status Quo (CBoC, August 2016)
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.
- Learn more: Medical Marijuana and Pharmacists: A National survey of Canadians on their perceptions and attitudes towards Marijuana (Abacus Data, February 2016)
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.