Non-medical cannabis retailers can not use dispensary terms

March 4, 2018

Association urges B.C. to address cannabis concerns before legalization

As Canada faces the impending legalization of non-medicinal cannabis in July 2018, the BC Pharmacy Association urged the B.C. government to address two outstanding issues regarding the sale and distribution of both recreational and medicinal cannabis across the province.

“We strongly believe that B.C. has an opportunity to pioneer a new, safer, properly regulated method for dispensing medical marijuana,” says Geraldine Vance, CEO of the BC Pharmacy Association. “But these changes must be implemented in tandem with the legalization of recreational pot, or we run the risk of increasing access for British Columbians to an unregulated, misrepresented product.”

In its official submission to the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General on Oct. 23, 2017, the Association outlined two recommendations critical to public safety: to immediately address the problem of illegal retailers labeling their storefronts as “dispensaries” and for the province to address the issues of safe dispensing of medical cannabis concurrently to the legalization of recreational cannabis.

The Association recommended that the term “dispensary” be banned from use by all pot retailers, apart from those individuals governed under the Health Professions Act (HPA), such as pharmacists and opticians.

On Feb. 5, 2018, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General released details on B.C.’s proposed retail framework for recreational cannabis in the province. Non-medicinal cannabis retailers will be prohibited from using the terms “pharmacy,” “apothecary,” and “dispensary” or other terms that 
would lead the public to believe they provide medical care.

“The vast number of establishments who operate under the banner of a ‘dispensary’ able to treat a wide assortment of medical conditions has created a dangerous public perception that all pot for sale is medicinal in nature,” says Vance. “In fact, the opposite is true. These storefronts have no established guidelines or protocols on ‘prescribing,’ their staff have no health-care training and the source of their product is not regulated or quality controlled in any way.
“Thousands of Canadians rely on medicinal cannabis to manage their health issues. They have the right to know they are getting that medication from legitimate providers,” Vance adds. 

At the same time, the Association urges B.C. to advocate for a speedier timeline to implement a widely accessible medicinal cannabis program through legitimate pharmacies, to provide patients with a legal, regulated product that is safe, effective and managed by a health-care professional. Cannabis should be distributed and logged like any other narcotic, ensuring checks and balances at every stage from producer to prescriber and to allow for proper medication oversight.

“Our members have told us that more training is needed on the efficacy, dosing and prescribing of marijuana for treatment of illness,” says Vance. “But clear regulations specific to medicinal cannabis is the crucial first step towards the safe and effective sale and distribution of cannabis in pharmacies in the future.”

Read the BCPhA's full submission and response to the B.C. government's recent announcement on The Retail Framework For Non-Medical Cannabis.

This article is featured in The Tablet. The Tablet features pharmacy and industry news, profiles on B.C. pharmacists, information on research developments and new products.