SAINT JOHN – New Brunswickers will now have access to medicinal cannabis through a major retailer.
Shoppers Drug Mart announced the expansion of its online sales across the country, in an effort to break down barriers for patients requiring cannabis for things like pain management.
Unlike recreational cannabis, medical cannabis still has to be authorized by a family physician.
But Mike Boivin, a pharmacist consultant with Shoppers, says many New Brunswickers don’t have access to a family doctor or have one that is opposed to recommending cannabis.
He says Cannabis by Shoppers has partnered with HelloMD to help bridge the gap.
“If they don’t have a physician, or they just want to see if they’re the right candidate for it, there’s a physician there where they can go and connect to a computer and they can have a 30-minute consultation to see if cannabis is right for them,” he said.
According to Statistics Canada, more than 800,000 people are “self-medicating” by using recreational or illegal cannabis without the guidance of a healthcare professional
In New Brunswick, 8,724 people obtain their medical cannabis through the legal system, but the patient population is likely much larger.
Boivin says the high rate of self-medicating is concerning.
“I am under the firm belief that cannabis is not for everybody. I really think that if someone is going to think about using it for health conditions, that they need to get access to a health care professional,” said Boivin.
The company is partnering with 12 licensed producers to fill prescriptions: Aphria, Aurora, Broken Coast Cannabis, CanniMed, Emblem, MedReleaf, Starseed Medicinal, Tilray, WeedMD, FlowerRx, Satipharm, and Zenabis, which has a major growing facility in New Brunswick.
The prescriptions will all be filled through a mail-order basis and sent directly and discreetly to your doorstep.
He hopes increasing access will allow people to make the right choices when it comes to cannabis use.
“We know about 1.1 million Canadians use cannabis. What we’re trying to do is I firmly believe that these patients need a health care professional to provide them some guidance in terms of what they should take, how they should take it, what are the potential risks, and is there any potential drug interaction,” he said.
Boivin says he’s seen a decrease in stigma around medical cannabis use.
“I never thought that five years ago when I started in this space that I’d be in a nursing home talking to seniors about using cannabis for chronic pain and for other conditions,” he said.
“So we’re seeing more and more people that are using it, and as more people talk about it, and talk about it from a medical perspective…I think that the stigma is slowly going to go away.”
Those interested can register for Cannabis by Shoppers online. Any questions can be answered by trained pharmacists available online or over the phone at 1-844-633-2627.