PHARMACISTS EYE MEDICINAL POT MARKET Pharmacists are the best-placed professionals to dispense marijuana for medical purposes if it's ever made a fully legal drug, says the association representing them. "If marijuana becomes a scheduled drug that becomes prescribed by a physician, then it only makes sense that pharmacists, as the drug therapy experts, dispense this drug as they would any other drug," said Peggy Berndt, spokesman for the Pharmacists Association of Alberta. A comment period ended Nov. 23 for amended Health Canada regulations for a proposed pilot project to allow pharmacies to dispense dried marijuana without a prescription. Pot would only be dispensed to medical marijuana exemptees with picture identification issued by the federal government, said Health Canada spokesman Catherine Saunders. Some 80 to 100 comments were received and Health Canada is now reviewing them before they are published in the Canada Gazette, she said. Precisely where, when and how a pilot project would be run has yet to be worked out, and will definitely require consultation between Health Canada, the provinces and territories and their colleges of pharmacists, Saunders said. As of Nov. 5, 753 Canadians were allowed to possess pot for medical purposes and of those, 543 were allowed to cultivate marijuana for medical purposes. Those who don't cultivate their own weed can get it from Health Canada. Saunders said 28.4 kg of pot have been couriered to exemptees since 2001. Alberta has the third-highest number of exemptees, some 73 people. Ontario leads with 296 exemptees, followed by British Columbia with 144. The Alberta College of Pharmacists said it's in a wait-and-see mode with respect to the proposed pilot project. "This is not an issue that we have responded to with a lot of enthusiasm," said college registrar Greg Eberhart. "We have not put forward any type of proposal for piloting." However, he said the college is keen to learn from the pilot project when it is launched. Eberhart said the college wants pharmacists first and foremost to be able to properly advise people about the use of marijuana and be able to steer them clear of side-effects. "It should be treated no differently than any other drug." The College of Pharmacists of British Columbia has already come out strongly in favour of distributing medical marijuana through pharmacies. The Alberta government is still observing the evolution of Health Canada's proposal, according to Health and Wellness spokesman David Dear.