Canadian medical marijuana company Aphria declared Monday it will provide Shoppers Drug Mart with medical cannabis to be sold online. But the deal’s not done until Health Canada approves Shoppers Drug Mart’s application to become a licensed producer (sale license only). If all goes forward, this will be the first transaction of its kind.
Shoppers Drug Mart is under the Loblaws umbrella, a company that only recently started selling alcohol in select stores. It is the largest Canadian drugstore chain with 1,200 stores operating. It has applied through Health Canada for a license to sell, not produce, medical cannabis last year. However, it will take a producer’s license to be approved to distribute marijuana. At least for now. That’s where Aphria comes in. “We have an impeccable record cultivating and producing high-quality, medical-grade cannabis,” Aphria’s CEO Vic Neufeld says. Aphria, the Ontario-based company, was one of the first to be granted a Health Canada license to cultivate and sell medical cannabis in 2013. Since then, the number of licensed producers has expanded to 79, even if experts say that this growth won’t satisfy the overall appetite for cannabis once the recreational market opens up.
The idea is that Aphria will supply Shoppers Drug Mart with dry cannabis flower and oil, the two products that are currently allowed under the ACMPR program. The deal is not exclusive, and the drugstore may pursue similar agreements with other licensed producers. Other pharmacies may even beat Shoppers Drug Mart to the finish. For instance, CanniMed, announced earlier this year that it had entered into a distribution agreement with PharmaChoice, a cooperative of pharmacies. But until that deal goes through the Shoppers Drug Mart proposition still has a chance to be the first. For now, however, their focus is just on medical and not recreational cannabis.
Will Shoppers Drug Mart secure a unique cannabis deal before full-on legalization in 2018? Only time and Health Canada can tell. Until the legal non-medical market opens, only consumers with valid prescriptions for marijuana—there are more than 200,000 of them registered in Canada—can purchase the product in Canada through a licensed producer. Those licensed producers may only distribute their product through the mail.
Aphria inc shares were halted from trading ahead of the announcement and will resume trading at 4:30 p.m. EST in Toronto
Alana seeks to see cannabis from the perspective of politicians, advocates, entrepreneurs, and consumers. She got her start with a byline in the arts and culture section and crossed over into cannabis after using it medicinally. Current projects include investigations into cannabis and wellness; entrepreneurs of the Green Rush; cannabis for athletes; and the evolution of cannabis laws and culture in Canada.