A Cannabis Strategy for Pharmacy: Enhancing Knowledge, Protecting Patients

Published June 22, 2018, 11:09 a.m.

College Council endorses strategy that addresses relevant areas of practice while preparing the College and pharmacy professionals to address evolving cannabis-related issues


June 20, 2018 – Toronto, ON – The Ontario College of Pharmacists, the provincial agency that regulates pharmacy to protect the interests, health and wellbeing of the public, has published A Cannabis Strategy for Pharmacy: Enhancing Knowledge, Protecting Patients following the endorsement of the strategy by the College’s governing Council on June 11, 2018.

Download/view A Cannabis Strategy for Pharmacy: Enhancing Knowledge, Protecting Patients

In September 2017, Council agreed to establish a task force to develop a Cannabis Strategy given the changing landscape of cannabis in Ontario. The multi-pronged Strategy simultaneously focuses on relevant areas of practice and prepares the College and pharmacy professionals to address evolving cannabis-related issues, while considering how to best serve and protect patients and Ontarians. It also reflects the health and social factors that are related to the legalization of cannabis for recreational use and the continued access to legal cannabis for medical use.

The Strategy’s purpose is to facilitate the ability of pharmacy professionals to respond to changes in the pharmacy practice environment related to the use of cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes. It was created with the objects of the College in mind, namely to “develop, establish and maintain standards and programs to promote the ability of members [pharmacy professionals] to respond to changes in practice environments, advances in technology and other emerging issues.

While all pharmacy professionals have a role to play in providing quality and safe patient care, the College recognizes that there are opportunities for pharmacists, in their clinical role as medication experts, to further promote quality and safety by taking into account cannabis use by patients such as through flagging drug interactions and providing relevant cannabis-related information.

Ultimately, patients and the public should expect that pharmacy professionals will have sufficient knowledge about cannabis use to contribute to positive health outcomes and prevent harm. This expectation is set in the College’s view that cannabis should be treated no differently than any other drug or substance on which pharmacists already provide advice.

For more information, visit the Cannabis Strategy for Pharmacy initiative page.


College position on distribution of cannabis in pharmacies

Matters related to the distribution of cannabis are not expressed or addressed in this Strategy. Learn more about the College’s position on cannabis distribution.

The College’s position statement on the distribution of cannabis in pharmacies refers to cannabis for medical purposes only. The College continues to support NAPRA’s position statement related to cannabis for non-medical purposes.


Education requirement for Part A pharmacists

In recognition of the important role education would be playing within the Strategy, in March 2018 the task force recommended that Council require all pharmacists to complete cannabis education in preparation for the anticipated practice changes due to the legalization of cannabis for recreational use. The Strategy provides the appropriate context for this expectation to now move forward.

This recommendation was approved, allowing for work on the development of competencies and learning objectives for cannabis education to move forward. Work is now underway with an advisory group on identifying appropriate educational resources and sources. The College will communicate further details around this new requirement over the coming months.

The evolution of cannabis for medical purposes
The College recognizes that cannabis is an evolving matter and may update its position and Strategy as the legislative and regulatory framework in Canada and Ontario related to access and distribution of cannabis evolves and becomes more defined over time. The College’s position and Strategy strike a responsible balance to make sure that the public is protected as society adapts to increased legal access to recreational cannabis and the emerging matter of cannabis for medical use while supporting the profession of pharmacy to play an active and appropriate role as medication and clinical experts to promote positive patient outcomes.

In the meantime, as always the College expects all pharmacy professionals and pharmacies, including pharmacy owners, operators and designated managers, to act in accordance with established laws and regulations, standards of practice and code of ethics.