CanadaCOVID-19NewsBC pharmacists can refill opioid prescriptions, can’t dispense medical weed

Province's policies continue to marginalize medical cannabis patients, says advocate
Michelle Gamage Michelle GamageMarch 20, 20207 min

In an effort to keep vulnerable populations and COVID-19 patients separate, British Columbia gave it’s pharmacists the power to refill expired prescriptions this week. 

Patients can now go to their local pharmacy to have an opioid, anti-psychotic and psychiatric prescriptions refilled, a spokesperson for the College of Pharmacists said in an email. 

But medical cannabis patients will still need to see a doctor to refill their prescriptions. 

Read more: Justin Trudeau’s business bailouts give cannabis the cold shoulder 

Read more: Manulife’s Shoppers-only medical cannabis coverage violates patient ethics: doctor

On Monday, Minister of Health Adrian Dix and B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced a slew of changes to best position the provinces’ health care system for the anticipated spike in COVID-19 cases. 

Along with limiting all gatherings to 50 people or less, the province granted pharmacists the ability “to provide patients with a prescription refill or an emergency supply of their medications if needed.”

These measures will allow doctors to focus on caring for patients with acute care needs, Dix and Henry said. 

Patients who fear they may need to self-isolate will be able to stock up on meds to get themselves through a two-week voluntary quarantine, the college’s spokesperson said. If patients are part of a vulnerable population, such as seniors, they will be allowed to stock up for even longer, they added. 

But these changes won’t benefit medical cannabis patients because federal and provincial laws don’t allow pharmacies to dispense medical weed.

That’s because pharmacists are only mandated to dispense prescription pharmaceuticals, or products that have gone through Canada’s drug approval test for efficacy and quality, the spokesperson said. 

Blocking pharmacists from dispensing weed will ‘marginalize medical cannabis users’ 

This is yet another example of how the federal government is signalling it doesn’t care about medical cannabis patients, veteran cannabis reform activist Dana Larsen said. 

“Medical cannabis patients are once again being left out and treated as if their medicine is not important,” Larsen said. 

“It’s already become much harder to access medical cannabis since legalization. Now they’re still refusing to fix this broken system even in light of the coronavirus situation.” 

Other regions with legal recreational and medical cannabis, like California, are leading the way by example, Larsen said. 

On Thursday, California Gov. Gavin Newson ordered all non-essential services to close and all residents to stay home. Essential services to remain open included gas stations, grocery stores and cannabis dispensaries. 

“California is treating medical cannabis dispensaries as essential services, while Canada continues to marginalize medical cannabis users and treat them as second-class patients,” Larsen said. 

Top image: B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister of Health Adrian Dix provide an provincial update on COVID-19. Photo by the Province of British Columbia via Flickr


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