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The owner of Canada’s second-biggest pharmacy chain Rexall added medical marijuana to its expertise through a free, online consultancy that will advise prospective patients on the product, though the prescription provider does not sell cannabis.

This is the latest move by a the owner of a Canadian pharmacy to offer cannabis education to patients as the medicine gains broader acceptance following the legalization of recreational pot last year and, as some speculate, the process will become easier for prescription providers to add it to their offerings.

Rexall is owned by McKesson Canada, which just partnered with licensed producer CannTrust Holdings Inc. with the launch an online patient education portal that offers free medical cannabis consultations by nurse practitioners on Well.ca. Well.ca’s patient consultancy is only available in Ontario but will be offered in other provinces “soon,” the company said.

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Medical patients often buy their prescribed marijuana directly from licensed producers (LPs), but the partnership with CannTrust is to co-create Well.ca’s educational content. McKesson has not entered into any exclusive partnerships with LPs with regards to purchasing recommendations for patients, said Andrew Forgione, spokesman for McKesson.

“McKesson Canada is currently evaluating opportunities focused on partnerships to enable patient access, and by leveraging the Well.ca platform,” Mr. Forgione said.

“Under current regulations, pharmacists in Canada cannot dispense medical cannabis from a pharmacy.”

After receiving a prescription, patients then register with a licensed producer to directly buy cannabis.

Shoppers Drug Mart, Canada’s biggest pharmacy, is the only one selling medical pot online after it went through the years-long licensing process.

“Rexall’s involvement in the cannabis industry remains primarily to ensure their pharmacy teams undergo significant cannabis training and are prepared to answer questions from patients inquiring about cannabis use and purchase,” Mr. Forgione said.

While neither Well.ca nor Rexall can prescribe or sell cannabis, this virtual consultancy service underscores steps being taken by pharmacies that will better position them to enter the sector by establishing both expertise and patients.

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“Our customers are looking for real-time access to a variety of diversified health and wellness professionals. As patient therapies are becoming increasingly complex and multi-faceted, our goal is to enhance the education and support that patients receive," said Rebecca McKillican, chief executive of Well.ca.

“Our nurse educators, allied health professionals, and other care providers can provide personalized guidance and recommendations, as well as answer questions related to emerging therapies.”

The move comes in the wake of Shoppers’ move into cannabis sales after becoming the only pharmacy to receive a licence by Health Canada in December to sell online.

London Drugs, which has pharmacies in Canada’s four western provinces, is also branching out into medical marijuana education.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Rexall offers cannabis education and that Well.ca was just launched. Paragraphs two and three are corrected to show cannabis education was launched by the owner of Rexall, which launched cannabis consultations on Well.ca and that its consultancy is only available in Ontario.
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