Shoppers Drug Mart launches second online medical pot portal in Alberta

As in Ontario, the Alberta platform touts ‘expert advice and counsel from trusted health-care professionals’

Medical cannabis users in Alberta can now get their therapeutic pot from Shoppers Drug Mart, with the retail giant opening its second online platform Tuesday in the western province as it pursues the growing market.

The launch follows the January debut of Medical Cannabis by Shoppers Drug Mart in Ontario, where the company says uptake “has been strong.”

As in Ontario, the Alberta platform touts “expert advice and counsel from trusted health-care professionals,” including tips on the purported health properties of various strains, proper dosages and titration techniques.

Pharmacists and experts can also help patients process their medical documents, discuss contraindications and help with online registration and strain selection.

That information and support is sorely needed, says Dr. Hance Clarke, a member of the chain’s advisory board on medical cannabis.

He says the advent of legalization has brought with it dubious health-and-wellness claims that are likely pushing some inexperienced users to self-medicate in the recreational market — both legal and not — where they get hazy information.

“I’ve gone into dispensaries just out of my own curiosity and I can tell you there is sometimes an 18-year-old telling someone, ‘This is what you should use for rheumatoid arthritis, this is what you should use for your anxiety, this will help you sleep,’” says Clarke, also director of pain services at Toronto General Hospital.

“And I’m just like sitting there (thinking), ‘I must be in outer space.’ That is literally what has been happening for the past five years.”

Recreational cannabis salespeople are prohibited from recommending strains for health impacts and must prove they are familiar with these constraints before working in a bricks and mortar shop.

In Alberta, retail staff must be certified by the SellSafe, in which they are quizzed about the province’s cannabis laws.

The similarly structured CannSell program in Ontario, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island was devised by Lift & Co. in conjunction with MADD Canada, the group best known for its impaired driving advocacy.

Andrew Murie of MADD says the group is trying to get more provinces to adopt the CannSell program, bemoaning a lack of consistent guidelines. He says the CannSell approach takes into account possible hurdles a retail worker might encounter, while government programs in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba appear more focused on rules and regulations.

MADD’s program includes real-world scenarios bud-tenders are likely to encounter on the job, such as how to recognize fake ID and signs of intoxication, and how to discuss a strain without advocating purported health properties, he says.

“When we started down the road of legalization of cannabis, I had really hoped there’d be federal leadership that you would have one set of retail-type of operations, one set of training and it’s just been like a patchwork blanket,” says Murie.

“There’s real inconsistency out there; there’s no evaluation of the programs, including ours, so you really wonder from province-to-province (about) the calibre.”

Alison McMahon of Cannabis at Work also sees room for improvement when it comes to training recreational retail staff.

“The government courses are very, very focused on the rules, essentially, as they should be,” says the Edmonton-based consultant, whose company recruits workers with cannabis businesses.

“Where the rubber hits the road is people are looking to understand what it’s actually like to work in the cannabis retail environment and how to do that successfully in terms of how to interact with customers in the store to make it a good customer experience…. It means we’re all kind of learning as we go.”

When it comes to medical cannabis, Shoppers is positioning itself as that single, trusted source for patients looking for guidance. Many doctors, too, are in desperate need of reliable information, Clarke says.

“Unfortunately, only about five per cent of physicians either prescribe or have an understanding in terms of the depth of knowledge that they need to feel comfortable (in authorizing cannabis),” he says.

Gerald Major, president of the patients’ advocacy group Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana, says he welcomes Shoppers’ promise to offer a holistic approach to health care, as well as demystify the process of finding the right product.

“I think they’ll help to normalize it, quite honestly, give it some more credibility,” Major predicts.

Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Wetaskiwin offers good value for taxes: mayor

Tyler Gandam speaks to chamber of commerce about 2019 budget May 14

Red Deer man arrested in connection with Leduc armed robbery

Leduc RCMP asking for public assistance after armed robbery – UPDATE

Leduc RCMP seek older suspect in alleged assault

Leduc RCMP seek public assistance in identifying assault suspect

A look at Millet In 1945

White Lunch Café changed its name to Dolly’s Café

Be wary of sad-sack con artist around Wetaskiwin

Local financial institution warns of seniors bilked out of as much as $4,000 by sob-story approach

Trudeau touts economic record at Liberal fundraiser in Vancouver

The Prime Minister was in B.C. for much of this week

CMHC defends mortgage stress test changes amid calls for loosening rules

Uninsured borrowers must now show they could service their mortgage if rates rose two per cent

School bus crash in Edmonton sends 12 to hospital, 2 with broken bones

Alberta Health Services said there were no life-threatening injuries

Crews fight fire with fire to keep blaze from northern Alberta town

The wildfire now covers some 920 square kilometres

Supreme Court of Canada won’t hear Alberta murder appeals

Sheena Cuthill and her husband Timothy Rempel were found guilty three years ago of killing Ryan Lane

Pipeline protester chimes in on Justin Trudeau’s B.C. fundraising speech

The government purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline and expansion project for $4.5 billion

Canada stripping citizenship from Chinese man over alleged marriage fraud

The move comes amid severely strained relations between Ottawa and Beijing

Mayor says northern Alberta town still under threat from nearby wildfire

The blaze has now eaten its way through about 920 square kilometres of forest

Ottawa spending $24.5M to research health benefits, risks of pot use

$390,000 will fund two cannabis public awareness

Most Read