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Professional ethics

Uruguay pharmacist group opposes plan to sell marijuana in pharmacies

Petition seeks to bring an end to “unethical” supply of marijuana from community pharmacies

Eduardo Savio

Eduardo Savio believes that supplying marijuana from pharmacies will diminish the perception of risk associated with the drug

Pharmacists around the world are being urged to back a campaign by counterparts in Uruguay against a change in legislation under which community pharmacies will sell marijuana.

Ministers in the South American country voted in support of the new law, known as 19.172 and enacted in December 2013, to permit marijuana to be sold for non-medicinal use. They also accepted the offer by Uruguay’s community pharmacy owners to sell the drug through their outlets.

The owners argue that community pharmacies are the ideal places from which to supply marijuana because they already have the computer systems needed to create a national database of marijuana users – a record that the government wants to establish as part of framework for the new law.     

But Uruguay’s professional organisation, the Association of Chemistry and Pharmacy of Urugua (AQFU), claims that filling such a role would be unethical and damaging for the profession’s reputation.  

It has launched an online petition calling for a ban on community pharmacies selling marijuana and is taking legal advice to see if it can challenge the new law on the grounds that selling marijuana is counter to a pharmacist’s professional code of ethics. It is also considering asking pharmacists to boycott working for community pharmacies that decide to sell the drug when the new regulations are introduced in November. More than 450 people have signed the petition to date.

Details of the AQFU campaign are revealed in the latest edition of the International Pharmacy Journal (IPJ) and a spokesperson for the AQFU, Eduardo Savio, told the journal his colleagues had become pharmacists to help people improve their health and well-being.

“To participate in drug distribution for recreational use goes against this philosophy. Also, supplying from pharmacies is not right because it diminishes the perception of risk of harm from using cannabis for the population. The image pharmacy has within society will be changed once this takes place.”

The campaign is supported by the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP), which fears that other countries will follow Uruguay’s lead.  

The IPJ highlighted a letter of support to the AQFU from FIP president Michel Buchmann who wrote that the “whole world was watching” developments in Uruguay. He warned: “Other countries may want to follow the footsteps of Uruguay in this regard. Therefore the consequences will have an impact well beyond national borders.”  

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society – which is a FIP member – said on Monday (16 June 2014) that it “had no desire” to see marijuana made available in UK community pharmacies.

See also: UN criticises Uruguay’s decision to legalise the sale of marijuana

  • This article was amended on 2 July 2014 to reflect the updated number of petition signatures.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.20065509

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