With marijuana set to become legalized in Canada by next summer, it’s now up to the federal government to fill in the not-so-minor details on how the multi-billion dollar industry will get up and running.
Who will be growing pot for sale, where it’ll be sold and for how much are all questions still up in the air, with many corporations and business groups currently doing their best to influence governmental decisions on the matter.
Last year, Shoppers Drug Mart submitted a formal application to become a distributor of medical marijuana, saying that selling weed through the pharmacy chain would ensure both the quality and safety of the product, along with giving patients the opportunity to consult with a pharmacist about their pot prescription. And last week, the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPA) affirmed its position that pharmacies should play the “frontline role” in the management and dispensing of medical cannabis.
Now, the Canadian Association for Pharmacy Distribution Management (CAPDM), the supplier of drugs to pharmacies and hospitals, is throwing its hat in the ring, arguing that it would be the best choice for getting marijuana —for both medical and recreational purposes — from producer to seller.
“Pharmaceutical distributors already store and transport controlled substances in secure and temperature-controlled warehouses and vehicles to maintain product integrity,” says David Johnson, president and CEO of CAPDM, to the Hill Times. “They can do the same for marijuana.”
The CAPDM recently hired lobbyist Kelly Baker from StrategyCorp Inc. to handle its cannabis interests. Baker’s profile states that the lobbyist served as a Communications Advisor for Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne during her leadership campaign.
“CAPDM is currently sharing information with members of the government on the existing pharmaceutical supply chain network, and how it could be utilized for marijuana distribution in a manner that is safe, secure and efficient, should marijuana become legalized in Canada,” Johnston said.
Last week, the federal government introduced legislation aimed at establishing a “strict legal framework” for the production, sale and possession of marijuana. The legislation calls for an age limit of 18 and older both for purchasing marijuana and cultivating it for personal use. The government hopes to have the law in place by the end of June 2018 and says that once federal regulations are in place, it will look into bringing other pot products into the framework, such as marijuana-infused edibles.
Sales from marijuana are expected to bring in at least $5 billion a year in tax revenue, with a CIBC report last year stating that the pot industry could amount to $10 billion a year in total.
But the burgeoning interest being shown by Canada’s corporate world is a concern to those already in the pot business. The Canadian Medical Cannabis Industry Association CMCIA, the group representing the majority of licensed producers in Canada, recently stated its opposition to the CPA’s call to be the primary distributor of medical marijuana. “Pharmacy should not be the sole means for patients to receive their medical cannabis, since this would harm patient access, product choice and affordability,” said the CMCIA in a statement.
Abi Roach of the Cannabis Friendly Business Association echoed the sentiment, saying that she’s not in favour of the bigger corporations’ efforts to take over pot distribution and sales.
“The fact that they want to shut out small business for big business is ridiculous,” Roach said, to the Cannabis Life Network. “If we were selling vegetables it would be the same thing — are you going to close down every vegetable market and allow Loblaws to have a monopoly on selling vegetables? No you wouldn’t, that’s insane.”