Pharmacy Group Interested in Medical Cannabis Hires Lobbyist With Ties To Ontario Premier

The Canadian Association of Pharmacy Distribution Management has hired a lobbying firm with connections to the Ontario premier to represent their interests on medical cannabis.

According to the Office of the Integrity Commissioner, the CAPDM hired Kelly Baker from StrategyCorp Inc., a “leading government relations & advocacy, communications and management consulting firm that’s home to an accomplished team of political, public relations, and business strategists.”

Baker’s profile stated that the lobbyist most recently “served as a spokesperson to Kathleen Wynne as Premier of Ontario and as a Communications Advisor during her Leadership Campaign and two re-election campaigns.”

Baker is now representing the CAPDM to hold “discussions with government officials with regards to the development of a marijuana distribution system.”

Cannabis Friendly Business Association representative Abi Roach said it’s another example of other sectors eager to enter into the cannabis market that they see as a potential for revenue.

“Whoever has the most money to hire the guy with the most connections is going to be the winner, and it’s the sad reality for business,” sad Roach, who has several cannabis operations in Toronto.

President and CEO of the CAPDM David Johnston said, in the group’s capacity as a trade association for the pharmaceutical distribution industry, the CAPDM are “sharing with governments that if distribution of marijuana is required then there exists a safe, secure and efficient system that could be leveraged.”

Johnston said while his group is not advocating for the legalization of cannabis, it is sharing information about the system currently in place in the event that changes are made to cannabis laws.

“CAPDM is currently sharing information with members of the government on the existing pharmaceutical supply chain network, and how it could be utilized for marijuana distribution in a manner that is safe, secure and efficient, should marijuana become legalized in Canada,” Johnston said.

Roach said she’s watched over the past several months as pharmacies, liquor organizations and others have begun lobbying the government in an attempt to enter, and potentially dominate, the medical cannabis market.

“The fact that they want to shut out small business for big business is ridiculous,” she said. “If we were selling vegetables it would be the same thing — are you going to close down every vegetable market and allow Loblaws to have a monopoly on selling vegetables? No you wouldn’t, that’s insane.”

Several pharmacy groups have come out in favour of medicinal cannabis sales at their businesses, including London Drugs and Shoppers Drug Mart.

“We’ve been looking at this for a number of years now,” said London Drugs vice-president of pharmacy John Tse. “Probably five or six years ago we started looking at what happens if it becomes legal.”

In February, the Canadian Pharmacists Association issued a statement on medical cannabis sales.

“The pharmacy community is increasingly concerned about patient safety and clinical oversight regarding the use of medical marijuana,” the statement read. “As such, CPhA is currently reviewing its existing policies to ensure its policy position regarding pharmacist dispensing of medical marijuana reflects patient safety in this evolving area.”

In March, the Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada also announced they were in favour of medical cannabis sales at their member locations and said their distribution network already handles controlled substances and is therefore suited to distribute cannabis as well.

“More research is required so that Health Canada and all other stakeholders can be fully aware of the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana,” said Neighbourhood Pharmacies president Denise Carpenter.

Roach said she doesn’t expect the pharmacy industry to have much traction with legal cannabis sales if the Liberal government wants to follow through with their commitment to make it more difficult for young people to access cannabis as “children walk into pharmacies all the time.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already come out against convenience stores selling cannabis.

Roach said as more and more groups enter the market, existing cannabis businesses needs to have their positions heard or risk having their operations co-opted by other players.

“Our industry needs to realize that we’re not a fringe industry anymore, we’re the mainstream and we need to start acting like it and speaking up,” Roach said.