Pharmacy ideal for selling recreational cannabis

Fiona Patten
Fiona Patten.

Community pharmacy would be “ideally suited” to dispensing cannabis if the drug were legalised for recreational purposes, says the Sex Party leader

Leader of the Australian Sex Party and Victorian MP Fiona Patten has called upon the Victorian and Federal Governments to tax and regulate personal cannabis use.

This would reduce waste, help boost budgets through taxation and better deploy police resources to fight crime, she says.

“Just this week Canada has moved to legalise personal cannabis use,” she said in a statement. “Like more than eight US States, they realise the economic and police resourcing benefits.

“Australia arrests more than 66,000 people each year for personal cannabis use with court costs alone estimated to be at least $80 million a year. That’s waste on a massive scale.”

Ms Patten told the AJP that significant regulation would be needed, but this could build upon existing frameworks.

“What we’ve learned from other jurisdictions where cannabis for personal use has been legalised is that it has been available through licensed distributors and licensed outlets,” she said.

“In many of those circumstances that has been medicinal cannabis licence holders, but I suspect that Australia, and Victoria in particular, may leapfrog some of that medicinal licensing process.

“So if you consider the licensing that community chemists go through already, and their fit and proper person tests, their ability to regulate restricted products… then they would be ideally suited for a regulated distribution of cannabis for personal use.

“As we saw in Uruguay, that was the obvious answer.”

Uruguay is set to become the first country in the world to legally sell marijuana for personal recreational use through community pharmacies.

Sales are set to begin in early July, according to the head of Uruguay’s National Drugs Council, following the implementation in May of a national registry of marijuana users. Users will need to sign up for the registry to obtain marijuana legally, and the amount they can purchase will be capped at 40 grams per month.

Ms Patten told the AJP that a great deal of the health risk from recreational cannabis is due to its illicit nature and associated stigma. Selling it in pharmacies would allow pharmacists to gain a better understanding of their patients’ drug use and improve harm minimisation opportunities.

“There’s no doubt that the harms of prohibition and the harms of an illicit industry are far greater than any harm that we would see from a regulated industry,” she says.

“Pharmacists are educated, prepared and experienced in explaining to people the harms of certain products, whether that’s an OTC flu tablet or whether it’s a vitamin regime.

“I have great sympathy for the ever-increasing regulatory role that local pharmacies have to play in this area – they are having to canvas their customers around a whole range of products, codeine being one of them, but certainly pseudoephedrine prior to that.

“This seems like a natural fit for chemists that are interested in this area.

“I wouldn’t imagine that this would be something all chemists would want to stock, but the success we’ve seen in other jurisdictions is where the retailer is licensed, educated and has the ability to record sales and follow a strict regulatory regime – and obviously pharmacies are very well suited to that, and very experienced in that.”

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  1. Jarrod McMaugh

    I’d tend to disagree with pharmacy being the best place for it, considering the scenario being proposed here.

    I don’t have any issue with legislation allowing for personal use, but I don’t think that if this were to occur, that pharmacy would be the ideal venue to purchase, for a number of reasons.

    1) Even if legislated for personal use, there are still harms associated with it’s use. Smoking any product leads to respiratory damage (this is not restricted to tobacco)… and since a large portion of people who smoke marijuana mix it with tobacco, there is still the issue of tobacco use.

    This would put the pharmacist in a position where they are selling a product which causes damage to health, so that wouldn’t fit with the pharmacist’s ethical role.

    2) Personal/recreational use isn’t the same as therapeutic use (clearly). There are other substances available to purchase in Australia that also require stringent controls, yet are not sold in pharmacy (specifically due to their potential harm). Alcohol and tobacco are clearly the main items. Neither of these are sold in pharmacy, and would not be appropriate to do be sold in pharmacy.

    3) People who want to purchase something for recreational/personal use should be able to purchase these things from a business that is designed for it. There are already tobacco sellers and alcohol sellers. Given that there is an accreditation process for selling alcohol, there could be one for cannabis as well without too much trouble.

    4) Urarguay is a unique situation, in that there was a lot of pressure due to the crime and violence associated with cannabis growth in South America. This isn’t the same here.

    Personally, I don’t think there needs to be a lot of harm minimisation around the use of cannabis (compared with other harmful substances). Compared to tobacco, alcohol, or other illicit drugs, it has far fewer side effects… and while it does have an impact on the lungs and on mental health, this is still less than the impact of alcohol.

    • Andrew

      Hi Jarrod,

      Vaping, edibles, concentrated extracts, oils. All became common in US states after liberalization. These preparations do away with the need for combustion. Mixing cannabis with tobacco would indicate an addiction to tobacco which is another thing altogether.

      Personal/recreational use (in some instances) MAY be the same as therapeutic use – as we well know and understand the self-medication aspect of that use.

      If/when cannabis is legal I’d support the idea of supply through a registered health practitioner such as a pharmacist. Contact with the system could allow an opportunity for evidence-based counselling support and referral if appropriate. This would require additional D&A training for the pharmacist; I think community pharmacists are very well placed to support the community’s very clear need for reliable, evidence-based, and accessible D&A support.

      Cannabis is a huge driver of crime in Australia, and a huge drain on police resources compared to the social harm it directly causes. Take the profitability away from the drug and the gangs have no market, and no low-risk opportunity for raising quick funds (as they do with grow houses).

      The mental health argument is the most frustrating of all. We’re still waiting for that conclusive evidence of a direct, causal association between cannabis and chronic psychosis (in adults). It still hasn’t appeared despite being studied very hard over many decades and tens of meta-analyses. Put it this way; the association has not been found without all the statistical magic and confounding factor correction that is used in the studies, it must be very very weak. Consider that in these studies the high-THC, low-CBD “street weed” is what is being used – If strains with higher CBD concentrations were more readily available they could mitigate whatever psychiatric link may exist.

      • Andrew

        BTW, happy 420 for yesterday.

        I saw all the students at the park after work….made me all nostalgic.

      • Jarrod McMaugh

        Let me reframe my reasoning for it not being in pharmacy.

        I am a beer enthusiast. I “collect” as many different beers as I can find. I travel to various retailers all over Melbourne (and interstate when I’m there) to find rare beers etc etc etc.

        If I was required to go to a health professional in order to buy this beer (due to the associated “health risks” associated with alcohol consumption), I’d be really really pissed off and inconvenienced.

        If marijuana was made legal for recreational use, then it should be treated the same as alcohol and tobacco. There shouldn’t be a need for a purchase to see a health professional for something that isn’t a health-related transaction.

        Sure we could make a case for there being adverse health outcomes etc etc etc…. just like tobacco and alcohol. It doesn’t need to be in pharmacy to have a legitimate avenue for purchase.

        • Andrew

          I agree 100%.

          My idea is more of a concession to those who think it should be strictly regulated. I’d be fine with us following the Oregon model of dispensaries and clubs but it seems that Australia is more interested and aligned with a strict supply model.

        • Ganji Phan

          Treat bud like beer – is a frequent one we use.. Trouble is the laws are a mess and undoing them takes more work than if there were not many bad laws just since 2016 in Australia. The biggest issue is in 2016, Australia states and federally re-defined what Cannabis and hemp is.. This means when beer and milk are the same thing the treat bud like beer idea goes out the window. We need to fix the laws.. then treat bud like beer. Australia has their 1st bill to legalise Cannabis being debated in NSW in a few days time, in the NSW senate. People need to tell their MPs in NSW to support the bill. Medical Cannabis Bill 2017 – – It legalises cannabis (buy your own and grow your own) for thousands in NSW (Canabis laws are a state issue) . The framework can be used in other states, and momentum in QLD, and South Australia is already in motion..

    • JimT

      just for the record medicinal cannabis is very different to receational cannabis

  2. Stefan Pettge

    It’s good to see someone brave enough to speak on the subjects of equality and actually trying to end “The War on Drugs” with some thought thrown into the process.

  3. James Lawson

    A pharmacist is trained to identify health needs and supply appropriate treatments for these needs. In the event cannabis is legalised for treatment of medically diagnosed conditions, I’d have no issue dispensing it as a compound.

    On the other hand, pharmacist training explicitly excludes recreational drug usage as an indication. We don’t dispense opioids or benzodiazepines for recreational purposes because there’s no medical indication for its use. Recreational use of drugs is in direct contravention with the principles of Quality Use of Medicine, and is therefore inappropriate for supply by a pharmacist.

    • Ganji Phan

      You know what Panadol is of course ?? – You know then it triggers the human ECS – endocannabnoid system, as does but differently than Cannabis. You can overdose on Panadol but not Cannabis, as it triggers differnetly 150 are poisoned EVERY WEEK from panadol .

  4. David Haworth

    All the arguments are moot because the warehouse model pharmacies would flog it for next to nothing and suck all the profit out of it.

  5. Ganji Phan

    Well there is nothing wrong with reinventing the wheel, but taking round off the table seems a little sillly. There is a bill up for debate in a few days in NSW Australia (cannabis legalisation has ro be done state by state) Called the NSW Medical Cannabis BIll 2017. It is the first bill, that gives protection to patients, caregivers, etc to grow their own cannabis, or buy from the black market, while supply is worked out. It works buy got getting wieghed down by all the previous bills and issues and there are loads. It will be debated in a few days in NSW, there is already interest in using the same framework for QLD and SA Australia – – for more info or if you live in NSW go see your MP and tell them to support their Cannabis bill . <3

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