The Cannabis Act came into effect October 17, 2018, signalling legalized access to cannabis for recreational use across Canada. With the legalization of cannabis for recreational use comes the potential for more open use among the public and pharmacy patients.
As medication experts, pharmacists are in a unique position to support quality and effective patient care for those who are using cannabis, for recreational or medical purposes, along with other medications that they may be taking. Recognizing the important role pharmacy professionals play in safe medication practices, and in consideration of the legalization of recreational cannabis, in March 2018 the College’s Cannabis Task Force recommended that Council require all pharmacists to complete cannabis education to support and promote quality and safe patient care for cannabis users.
The Task Force’s recommendation was approved, allowing for work on the identification of competencies and suggested learning objectives for cannabis education to move forward.
Through the guidance of the Cannabis Education Advisory Group consisting of pharmacy educators on cannabis, practicing community and hospital pharmacists and a patient advocate, this work is now complete and the College is now working with the Canadian Council on Continuing Education in Pharmacy (CCCEP) to identify cannabis education programs that address the competencies identified by the Advisory Group. Once accredited by CCCEP as mapped to the outlined competencies, these programs will be listed on the OCP website. The College anticipates education programs will begin to be accredited and approved in early 2019.
CANNABIS STRATEGY AND POSITION STATEMENT
In anticipation of the Cannabis Act, Council approved the Cannabis Strategy for Pharmacy on June 17, 2018. The Strategy focuses on relevant areas of practice and prepares the College and pharmacy professionals to address evolving cannabis-related issues. Consistent with the position of the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities (NAPRA) related to cannabis and pharmacy, it protects patients and Ontarians congruent with the College’s mandate and within the current legal framework for accessing cannabis.
Along with the Strategy, Council also endorsed a formal position statement on the distribution of cannabis for medical purposes within pharmacy. The College continues to support NAPRA’s position statement which opposes pharmacy practitioners being involved in the distribution of cannabis for non-medical purposes.
It is important to emphasize that the College’s regulatory approach focuses on patient safety as society adapts to the new realities associated with legal cannabis use. However, it is not the College’s role to advocate for distribution of cannabis for any purpose within pharmacies and continues to remind all pharmacies and pharmacy professionals of the legal frameworks currently in place related to how cannabis for recreational or for medical purposes can be legally distributed. We believe that our position and our Strategy recognizes that Ontario pharmacy professionals should play a role in how people use cannabis in the context of their health care experience, regardless of where it is distributed.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR PHARMACY PROFESSIONALS
Interested in understanding why the College developed a Cannabis Strategy, the work of the Task Force and what role pharmacy professionals can play? The College has posted the Strategy, background materials and additional resources such as an FAQ on the public website under Key Initiatives.