by Jameson Berkow
Ken Weisbrod is no longer in charge of the Shoppers Drug Mart medical cannabis business.
After nearly two decades with Canada’s largest pharmacy chain, Mr. Weisbrod stepped down from the division he launched and ran for seven years, late last month. His last day as Shoppers’ vice president of business development and cannabis strategy will be Dec. 5, though the company’s VP of connected healthcare and operations, Kristine McTaggart, has already assumed responsibility for the company’s cannabis business.
“Ken will continue to support the organization over the next several weeks with a focus on managing our suppliers and clinic partners,” Theresa Firestone, Shoppers senior vice president of health and wellness, wrote in a Sept. 30 internal email obtained and authenticated by Weekly Chronicle. “I want to thank Ken for his significant contributions to Shoppers and for all of his support in developing and launching multiple business initiatives.”
It is unclear whether Ms. McTaggart, who previously worked for Purolator and FedEx before joining Shoppers in 2009, is leading the cannabis business on an interim or permanent basis. Shoppers did not immediately respond to a request for clarification, though in her email, Ms. Firestone said “Kristine has been an active contributor to Women in Leadership, helped to develop our overall health and wellness strategy and she led numerous health and pharmacy growth initiatives.”
“Her current portfolio includes: Health Clinics, Beauty Clinics, Dietitians and now Medical Cannabis,” Ms. Firestone said.
Mr. Weisbrod, who will remain as a consultant to Shoppers for six months starting Dec. 6, confirmed his pending departure when reached for comment Friday morning.
“I was actually going to leave last year,” he said, “but the University Health Network partnership was the one thing I wanted to finish because I had started that whole standardization concept.”
The Shoppers-UHN partnership, detailed extensively in the latest edition of Weekly Chronicle, is a first-of-its-kind research study aiming to address what Mr. Weisbrod describes as “rampant product substitution” in the legal cannabis sector. Since early 2019, he has personally championed industry-wide efforts to apply pharmaceutical-level product tracking and consistency standards to medical cannabis.
Ms. Firestone’s email said Mr. Weisbrod is leaving “to pursue other professional opportunities,” though he declined to elaborate when asked what he plans to do next.
“My next move, I am going to be very careful about what I want to do,” Mr. Weisbrod said. “There are lots of reasons I could not do anything, though I’m not the kind of guy who can just sit around and this industry needs people that have my background.”
“I am more of an innovator,” he said, “and now that [Shoppers Medical Cannabis business] is up and running, I want to finish my career doing something a little bit more innovative.”