Customers in the Northwest Territories can now buy medical cannabis online through Shoppers Drug Mart.
The pharmacy chain launched an e-commerce platform for medical cannabis in Ontario in January, then extended it to Alberta in April. It took until Tuesday for the service to reach the Northwest Territories, as well as several other provinces.
Cannabis was previously only available in the NWT legally through certain government-controlled liquor stores or online through the liquor and cannabis commission's website.
Cannabis bought through the Shoppers Drug Mart website must be for medicinal use, and it is available online only – there is no option for purchase at the chain's physical store in Yellowknife.
Strains of cannabis, THC and CBD in oil form are for sale through the store's website, as are vapourizers and vape pens. The products are from 12 licensed producers, Shoppers stated, and are shipped to people's homes "directly and discreetly."
The pharmacy chain said it is staffing a call centre where customers can get help with selecting the right strain as well as other support and counselling, according to a news release on Tuesday.
According to Shoppers, 156 people in the NWT are accessing medical cannabis through the healthcare system – yet the number of people using medical cannabis is likely higher.
Numbers from Statistics Canada, cited by Shoppers on Tuesday, suggest 800,000 of the 1.1 million Canadians who use cannabis medically are accessing "recreational or illegal cannabis." The expansion of Shoppers' service is meant to give people another access point for medical cannabis through the medical market, the company said.
In order to buy medical cannabis from the new service, customers need to have a medical document filled out. This, Shoppers explains, is similar to a prescription. "It's a form completed by a physician/nurse practitioner which authorizes a patient's use of medical cannabis," the store's website states. Patients can either get this document filled out by a healthcare professional, or online via a telemedicine portal that Shoppers states takes 30 minutes and does not involve a fee.
After people register on the site and submit their medical document, advisors from the call centre will then contact people to "review their medical history and any contraindications with current medications, and provide support with online registration and strain selection," a news release stated.