Drugstore pot, free TV for life & the skinny on new cable rules: BUSINESS WEEK WRAP

Free TV for life and marijuana at the corner store sound like dreams come true for your neighbour, Chad, who lives in his mom's basement. But believe it or not, those stories were ripped from the business pages this week. Here's the CBC's Jacqueline Hansen with the skinny on basic cable's new rules in her weekly video recap.

One of the biggest stories we brought you this week was this one about how Canada's biggest pharmacy chains are lining up to offer medicinal marijuana.

Shoppers Drug Mart and London Drugs both said this week they would be interested in distributing and possibly even making marijuana-based products for customers at their thousands of stores across the country with a prescription, should the law ever allow it.

The chains cite their experience handling other restricted substances, like prescription drugs, with making them the ideal places to handle medicinal pot. And neither of them sound like they're lobbying to open the floodgates without a suitable amount of caution.

"Marijuana has pharmacological effects," London Drugs' vice-president of pharmacy John Tse said. "It may interact with certain medications [so] we need to consult industry experts, area experts, in getting that necessary information, assembling it, then training our pharmacists on how to utilize that information, in preparation that medical marijuana will be a legal product."

Medicinal marijuana is one thing, but the real cash cow is likely recreational use, a market which one expert told us this week could be worth as much as $10 billion a year. With money like that on the table, the big pharmacy chains "are the first of many that are going to say 'yeah, we want a piece of this,'" Western University business professor Mike Moffatt told us this week.

Pick-and-pay is on the way

Another big story this week was the sea change about to hit Canada's cable television industry. As of Tuesday, Canada's big television providers must offer a slimmed down "skinny basic" package of channels for no more than $25 a month.

But so far, the details of what the companies will offer have also been slim. CRTC rules say the cable companies have to promote their new plans as much as they push the old ones, and the regulator says they'll be keeping an eye on the big companies to make sure they do

"We will certainly be watching and we will be following up with the companies on how they are implementing these efforts," was how CRTC's broadcasting executive director Scott Hutton put it.

There's already evidence of pushback, as this story from the CBC's Sophia Harris uncovered, showing that Bell Canada for one has been instructing its employees to not promote the new offering at the expense of existing, more expensive plans.

Free TV for life?

And speaking of TV plans, our most read story of the week was this one about the growth of new devices that offer dozens of channels and movies to users, all completely free of charge.

So-called Android TV Boxes work by collecting and disseminating digital streams to anyone who buys a loaded box for about $100.

Users rave about them, and the boxes seem to exist in a legal grey area since, strictly speaking, they don't download the content — they merely stream it — which many copyright lawyers we spoke to say keeps them on the right side of Canadian law.

But for an industry already in the midst of a major shift in its business model, the prospect of legal free television for life is one more front to keep an eye on.

Other stuff

Those are just some of our biggest news items this week. Be sure to check out our landing page for more, and don't forget to follow us on Twitter here. In the meantime, here's a day-by-day list of our most read stories of the past week.







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