Shoppers Drug Mart has expanded its online medical cannabis sales platform to cover five new Canadian provinces and territories.

The country’s largest drug store group today announced that it will now sell to patients in Newfoundland & Labrador, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan.

Shoppers Drug Mart is not permitted to sell medical cannabis at its 1,300 brick-and-mortar stores, but it commenced ecommerce sales in Ontario in January 2019. It then began selling medical cannabis in Alberta in April.

It has partnered with 12 licensed producers to secure medical cannabis products that it sells direct to patients via a dedicated section of its website, Medical Cannabis by Shoppers. Jeff Leger, president at Shoppers Drug Mart, said Canadian patients have been left behind by traditional retail models, arguing that they need more convenient access to medical marijuana.

“We expanded Medical Cannabis by Shoppers nationally to provide enhanced service to more patients so they can feel empowered to access medical cannabis through the medical market with the guidance of healthcare professionals,” he said.

The firm cited Statistics Canada data and said that 1.1 million Canadians use cannabis for medical purposes, but more than 800,000 of them are self-medicating with recreational or illegal cannabis, without the guidance of a healthcare professional. It believes Medical Cannabis by Shoppers can redress the balance and allow Canadians to gain access to products that are safer and better suited to their medical conditions.

Shoppers uses a firm called TruTrace Technologies to run a medical cannabis strain traceability scheme that provides patients seed-to-sale information. Producers Aphria and WeedMD have signed up to partner with the retailer for the scheme, while Deloitte has also been brought in to audit the process.

A Shoppers Drug Mart Medical Advisory Board also provides pharmacists with education and guidance on clinical evidence on the effectiveness of medical cannabis. The firm has developed clinical algorithms that help its advisors select the correct strain for patients. It can also connect patients to a licensed physician or nurse practitioner to assess whether a patient is an ideal candidate for medical cannabis.