While recreational cannabis won’t be available in Canada until July 1, medicinal weed could become more accessible than ever, with Ontario-based cannabis manufacturer Aphria Inc. announcing it has reached a partnership deal with Canadian pharmacy chain Shoppers Drug Mart outlet to become their exclusive provider of medical marijuana.
Aphria announced Monday that it finally reached a five-year deal with the pharmacy chain. As a part of the deal, the cannabis company will provide Drug Marts around Canada with four strains of dried marijuana flower in two different sizes and four cannabis oils— all with the Aphria brand name.
While this remains a done deal on paper, the contract still is awaiting approval from Health Canada, who must first review Shoppers Drug Mart’s application to be a licensed marijuana retailer. The chain’s parent company, Loblaw Companies Ltd., applied for a license back in October 2016, but it is still awaiting a final verdict.
If Loblaw’s medical license is approved, there would be one major restriction, however. Although medicinal cannabis would be available for purchase through Shopper’s Drug Marts, all sales would have to occur online, as Canada’s current federal regulations only allow licensed pharmaceutical providers to distribute their pot products through the mail.
Aphria’s CEO, Vic Neufeld, believes the partnership will be highly beneficial for both parties.
“We have an impeccable record cultivating and producing high-quality, medical-grade cannabis,” said Neufeld. “These traits make us a strong partner for an organization looking to serve and support Canadian patients.”
“We have an opportunity to grow as Shoppers Drug Mart grows.”
The deal has already provided immediate dividends for Aphria, as the company’s stock closed almost two percent higher on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Monday. However, this is merely the beginning of a blossoming partnership. If the federal government changes its provisions to allow pharmacies to dispense medical marijuana in stores, the partnership could become a highly lucrative investment.
“The home run turns into a grand slam,” Neufeld exclaimed.
Catherine Thomas, a spokeswoman for Loblaw, said in an email that the company remains optimistic that they can one day sell their products in-store.
“As the federal and provincial governments finalize their respective cannabis frameworks, we remain optimistic that they will allow pharmacists in stores, in communities to apply their professional care to medical cannabis patients.”
The Aphria/Drug Mart partnership is just one of several high-profile agreements between cannabis producers and pharmacies.
Maricann Group Inc. announced just last month it entered into a letter of intent with Lovell Drugs Ltd. to provide them with their own cannabis products.
The company CanniMed Therapeutics Inc. also signed a letter of intent with PharmaChoice earlier in the year to become its exclusive marijuana distributor.