Cannabis, Cannabis, Cannabis: enough already. October 15, 2018


This stuff has been around for 5000 years at least.  It’s called grass, or weed, or pot, or hash or dope for a reason; it makes people dopey.  Some people like feeling dopey and that’s OK as long as they don’t harm anyone but themselves.  The latest move to decriminalize cannabis is an overdue idea as it is widely used for so called ‘recreational’ reasons.  To some people, feeling stoned or dopey is their form of recreation.  Apparently as many as 4 million Canadians use pot regularly, in spite of its illegal status.

While anecdote is not evidence, there are some documented experiences of patients using so called ‘medical cannabis’, especially in treating chronic pain, nausea during cancer treatment, and some forms of epilepsy gaining some benefit, largely from the cannabinoid component in weed.  This is a teeny fraction of cannabis users (about 120,000) and for them the term medical marijuana may not be an oxymoron.

For everyone else, the term medical marijuana is an inside joke.  It is ‘medical’ if the person says it is, kind of like ‘medical bourbon’.  It’s all in the eyes of the beholder.  The CMA remains doubtful about the usefulness and/or efficacy of medical cannabis.  Only 10% of physicians will even touch the stuff.  So why does pharmacy keep talking about it?  The main reason is as always money, big money.

In reality, what most ‘users’ are after is the THC; the “good stuff” that makes you stoned.  The use/harm of cannabis is probably no worse or no better than the use of alcohol, another toxin widely used by people for ‘recreational purposes’.  Way too much money, police resources, courts and prisons and way too many ruined lives have been wasted since the prohibition of cannabis in the 1930s.  Criminalizing cannabis for political and misinformed reasons, has been one of the largest examples of wasted taxpayers’ money in history.

Cannabis legalization is coming to Canada on Oct. 17, finally legalizing the stuff.    Plenty of enterprises across the country, from growers to retailers to the tech and tourism sectors, to stock brokers and of course drug stores are all chomping at the bit to reap a windfall from legal marijuana. But there remain difficult questions about cannabis use in the workplace, in homes, & while driving or operating dangerous machinery.  How many lives may be lost on the roads before someone realizes that maybe this whole thing was rushed for political reasons?  It’s fine if people like being stoned while listening to Pink Floyd in their own home or at a party.  It’s another thing if a stoned truck driver hauling 100 tons of steel plows into a stream of stopped vehicles on a highway because of his reduced reaction time.

Globe & Mail October 15, 2018                                                                                              Cannabis makes it harder to identify and react to driving distractions that can result in crashes, a clinical trial at McGill University found. About 80 per cent of the participants, aged 18 to 24, also reported feeling less safe to drive after using the drug, including five hours later.

One thing for sure, lots of people are going to make many tens of millions of dollars on cannabis.  The stock market thrives on hype like this.  It reminds one of the heady days of high tech.  As always, the usual suckers are going to get burned badly.

So what is Pharmacy’s official position on cannabis?  To say it is total confusion would be an understatement.  Note that at this point in time, pharmacies are not even part of the distribution channel for either ‘medical marijuana’ or the recreational stuff.  Pharmacies are presently not in the loop.

But as pharmacy struggles to find a place in this Wild West cannabis landscape, it is torn between its professional obligations , and the dominating reality that pharmacy is largely now controlled by corporate interests (BPR) in search of profits from the sale of any products, even the many useless or even harmful products found in many drug stores today.

To illustrate this embarrassment to pharmacy, this week an email was sent out by the OPA (Ontario Pharmacists Association) re a deputation made on October 11th before the Standing Committee on Social Policy at Queens Park.  The delegation consisted of the Chief Pharmacy Officer and the Vice Chair of the OPA.  In this document the OPA clearly states that the 10,000 pharmacist members represented by OPA OPPOSE the sale of recreational cannabis products in pharmacies.  The deputation largely advocates that pharmacists be allowed to dispense medical marijuana; the document also alleges that cannabis is just another drug that pharmacists can and should be available to consult on.

OPA deputation October 11, 2018                                                                                                   “In the absence of an amendment we would ask the Ontario government to seek formal approval of the Federal government for provincial authority to task pharmacists with the dispensing of medicinal cannabis pursuant to a medical order

At the same time, we want to make it absolutely clear that the members of the OPA   DO NOT want to distribute recreational cannabis”

Of course everyone knows that this is NOT where the real money is.

In contrast to this position, the NPAC (Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada (hitherto known as the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores) made a submission recently to the government of British Columbia (as well as to other provincial governments) re cannabis regulation.  In this document, argument is presented that pharmacists should be part of the distribution channel for medical marijuana for the same reasons as the OPA submission did.  The big difference in this NPAC document is that the NPAC clearly states that its members (Big Pharmacy Retail/BPR and all the assorted pharmacy brands/banners) DO want to sell recreational marijuana, and a spurious argument is outlined to support the position that pharmacists know how to handle tricky goods.  So does the LCBO.

Recent submission by NPAC to BC government                                                                         “Our members strongly believe that the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations should be amended so that pharmacists can be authorized to distribute and dispense medical cannabis.  Pharmacies play a significant role in managing the distribution of controlled products and they would be committed to work with all levels of government to ensure that recreational cannabis products are also sold legally in pharmacies”

And of course everyone knows that this IS where the real money is.

The large majority of the 10,000 pharmacist members of the OPA work for NPAC companies.  What is their individual position?  Who really represents them?  What about individual choice?  Do pharmacists support their provincial advocacy body’s position or their NPAC employer?  Some may not want to get involved with cannabis at all?  Will they be granted this choice by their NPAC backed employers?

Recognizing this contradiction, does anyone know what most pharmacists really think about being involved in the sale of cannabis products?  The non-pharmacist pharmacy owners (BPR) know what they want; they see a great opportunity to create traffic and boost profits at the retail level and there is no way BPR wants to be left behind.

Additionally, what is the position of the Pharmacy Regulatory Bodies?  The OCP (Ontario College of Pharmacists) has declared its position.  As part of its ‘Opioid Strategy’, it will now require all Ontario pharmacists to complete formal cannabis education as a condition for licensure by the year 2020.  Why isn’t there compulsory education for other drugs?  What makes cannabis so special?  Is this just more politics and an attempt at appearing proactive?   Isn’t this a case of overreaching of authority?  Would this OCP licensing requirement withstand a legal challenge?

In BC only 8% of registered pharmacists voted in recent council elections.  The BC College of Pharmacists is puzzled as to why.  Wonder what the percentage is in Ontario.

All this for a substance which may never actually come under the control of pharmacists, ‘medicinal’ or recreational.  There is a good possibility that pharmacy may be shut out altogether…not even the medical stuff, let alone the recreational stuff.

All this hype acts to give a 5,000 year old herbal substance, known as cannabis a heightened position within society that it simply does not deserve.  In the final analysis cannabis is just dope by another name.  Enjoy it if it’s your thing, but remember it still stinks, turns your hair yellow, probably does nothing for your libido, and makes you slur your words…so please don’t glorify it

Those pharmacists who consider themselves to be ‘conscientious objectors’ when it comes to cannabis in any form, must retain the right to just say no.






11 thoughts on “Cannabis, Cannabis, Cannabis: enough already. October 15, 2018

  1. I looked on the NPAC website and at their list of Board members. Perhaps OPA has observer status (I don’t know) but I don’t see the connection you refer to.


      • Sherif Guorgui is the District L rep on OPA’s Board of Directors.
        Sherif Guorgui is on the OPA Owner’s Advisory Council (Corporate Caucas Council Member).
        Sherif Guorgui, per his OPA profile (last link above) is a director on the board of the NPAC.

        Thanks Randy…my error


      • Thank you for changing the details and the implication made. OPA and NPAC can certainly work together on areas of common interest but do not always agree on specific goals for their membership.


  2. Would the difference not be that the OPA’s stated membership is individual pharmacists and the profession of pharmacy, while the NPAC’s membership consists of pharmacy businesses, large & small, but mostly large?

    Is NPAC not closer to being more like the CFIB (Canadian Federation of Independent Business)

    Is this not why SDM/Loblaw left the NPAC at one time? Now they are back in I see.

    This whole piece is meant to highlight the inherent contradiction within pharmacy today, and the powerful impact that non=pharmacist entities have on the profession and how it is practiced.

    Meanwhile the OCP, instead of using its regulatory powers to impact upon the contradiction, invents compulsory education courses. Keeps them busy I guess, and justifies the recent astronomical increase in fees


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