Canadian medical marijuana company Aphria announced on Monday it will supply Shoppers Drug Mart with medical cannabis to be sold online. If Health Canada approves the pharmacy’s application to become a licensed producer, the deal will be one of the first of its kind ahead of the legalization of recreational cannabis by next summer.
The Loblaw-owned drugstore chain is the largest in Canada with more than 1,200 stores and had applied through Health Canada for a license to sell medical cannabis last year. The company had been on the hunt for a medical marijuana brand manager. The drugstore chain had said at the outset it wanted to sell, not produce, medical cannabis.
“We have an impeccable record cultivating and producing high-quality, medical-grade cannabis,” Aphria’s CEO Vic Neufeld wrote in a statement Monday evening. His Leamington, Ontario-based company was one of the first firms granted a Health Canada license to cultivate and sell medical cannabis when the department first launched its cannabis regime in 2013. Since then, the number of licensed producers has ballooned to 79, although experts have said there will need to be hundreds more in order to meet the demand of the future recreational market.
If approved, the Shoppers Drug Mart deal with Aphria would last for five years and require the drugstore to purchase a minimum amount of cannabis every year, Neufeld said during a teleconference on Monday. Neufeld added that Shoppers Drug Mart is interested in medical cannabis and not recreational cannabis, at least for the time being.
Further, the deal is not necessarily exclusive to Aphria as the drugstore may pursue similar deals with other licensed producers.
Aphria is slated to supply the company with dried bud and a selection of oils.
“Pharmacists should play an important role in the safe and informed use of medical cannabis,” a Shoppers Drug Mart spokesperson told VICE News in an email on Tuesday. “As the federal and provincial governments finalize their respective cannabis frameworks, we remain optimistic that they will allow pharmacists in stores, in communities to apply their professional care to medical cannabis patients. ”
Until the legal recreational market opens, only people with valid medical prescriptions for cannabis can purchase the product in Canada through a licensed producer, which must distribute it through the mail. There are more than 130,000 registered medical cannabis patients in Canada.
Earlier this year, another licensed cannabis producer, CanniMed, announced it had entered into a distribution agreement with PharmaChoice, a cooperative of pharmacies.