Marijuana: Now That it’s Legal, Where should it be sold?
When I operated my first pharmacy in Toronto, I sold cigarettes. Although there was very little profit, the large volume of sales actually paid the rent of the pharmacy. In 1994, The Ontario College of Pharmacy decided that it did not want cigarettes sold in pharmacies any longer because it destroyed our squeaky clean image that we portrayed in our nice white lab coats.
Myself, and a few of my associates brought a motion before the Ontario College of Pharmacists that would restrict the sale of cigarettes to pharmacies only. We felt that if you had to ask the pharmacist for tobacco products, it would ensure that no young people could purchase them and that adults would slowly quit because it was too embarrassing to ask a health professional for cigarettes.
However on December 31, 1994, a law was passed making it illegal for pharmacies to sell tobacco and allowing its sale in variety stores.
After all, Canada is one of the few countries in the world in which you can buy codeine products without a prescription. You must go the pharmacy and ask for your acetaminophen with codeine, your codeine cough syrup or even Robaxisal with codeine. All these habit-forming narcotics are available with a simple request from you to your pharmacist.
So why not marijuana? It will be legally sold in just over a year from now and each province will be responsible for its sale and distribution. Making it available on demand in pharmacies ensures that it is only sold to adults and that it is sold by a health professional who can explain all the effects, good and bad of this drug. They could even supply a printout of this information similar to the printout you receive with a prescription drug.
Pharmacists are trained specifically in pharmacology so they can explain exactly how this drug works in your body and that it takes approximately 7 days to detoxify one dose. They would explain to people that if they ate a marijuana laced brownie at night in order to sleep and relieve pain, they would still be under the influence the next morning when they drove their car. Their reflexes would be slowed down and they would not be able to maneuver out of danger or apply their brakes as quickly as usual.
It could be sold in the LCBO stores but there would not be any one to inform the consumer of the side-effects and risks of taking this drug. It may continue to be sold through government agencies by mail-order only or the Ontario Government may set up special retail outlets just for the sale of marijuana.
I feel the latter may be dangerous. Once the government gets ahold of this product, there will still be a huge black market because of all the taxes imposed on its sale. Just the other day I heard Mayor John Tory of Toronto talking about the extra revenue the tax on pot would bring to the city. Stand-alone retail establishments would be sitting ducks for criminals who want to steal their supply for the illegal trade and sell it at prices below the government’s price.
Most of our pharmacies are very large secure places, used to using high rates of security to protect their drugs and narcotics.
The Ontario College of Pharmacists may have had a point in not selling tobacco products that are responsible for major diseases such as heart attacks, strokes and lung cancer. But this time around, they have an opportunity to take in a medicinal substance and carefully control its sale and distribution.
This would be the safest and most logical decision.