North

N.W.T., Yukon residents can now buy medical cannabis online through Shoppers Drug Mart

Starting Tuesday, people in the two territories can buy cannabis online through the retail chain. They can't, however, buy cannabis from the brick-and-mortar Shoppers pharmacies.

Customers can't buy cannabis from the brick-and-mortar pharmacy in Yellowknife

Starting Tuesday, people in the Northwest Territories can buy cannabis online through the retail chain. Customers cannot, however, buy cannabis from the brick-and-mortar pharmacy in Yellowknife. (Graeme Roy/Canadian Press; Ron Ward/Canadian Press)

Northwest Territories and Yukon residents can now buy medical cannabis online from Shoppers Drug Mart.

Until now, people in the N.W.T. could buy legal cannabis only at certain liquor stores and through the Northwest Territories Liquor and Cannabis Commission's online store.

In the Yukon, cannabis is sold through private stores and online through the Yukon Liquor Corporation. The government's online store, Cannabis Yukon, was down "for maintenance" at the time of publication.

But press releases from Shoppers say that starting Tuesday, people in the two territories can buy cannabis online through the retail chain. Customers cannot, however, buy cannabis from the brick-and-mortar Shoppers pharmacies.

Residents will need a "medical document" to buy cannabis through Shoppers. According to the store, the document is not quite a prescription, but it is a form filled out by a physician or nurse practitioner that authorizes a patient to use medical cannabis. 

Few physicians authorize cannabis

The releases say Shoppers will help people who don't have access to a physician or nurse to connect with one who will evaluate whether they would benefit from medical cannabis. 

People can fill out a form on the store's website. They will then be contacted by a "specialized advisor" that will review their medical history and assess whether cannabis would conflict with any medication they're already taking, state the releases. The advisor can also help with strain selection.

The number of physicians that will authorize cannabis for their patients is still small, said Dr. Hance Clarke, director of pain services at Toronto General Hospital and a medical consultant for Shoppers. 

"If you're a patient looking for symptom control and you have other conditions — if you have a heart problem, liver problem, a kidney problem — you really don't want to just walk into a store and choose any cannabis products," he said.

Clarke said some company health benefit plans now include cannabis in their coverage.

"For example Loblaws — Shoppers Drug Mart and Loblaws are the same entity — they do have a $1,500 annual limit for individuals to cover cannabis," he said. But there's a caveat: "This is for neuropathic pain associated with multiple sclerosis, or spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, so three very specific conditions," said Clarke.

The releases say Shoppers sells cannabis products from 12 licensed producers and ships them "discreetly" to patients.

It has been selling cannabis to people in Ontario since January, and to Alberta residents since April.

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