Health Canada reminds industry of changes to definition of “cannabis oil”

| David Brown

Health Canada is reminding the industry that they will soon be removing “cannabis oil” as a separate class of cannabis that may be sold under under the Cannabis Act, among other changes.

This means cannabis oils will still be allowed to be produced and sold, but they will no longer exist in their own category. This is an expected change written into the Cannabis Act to allow a transition of previously existing cannabis oil products into a broader cannabis extract category, and brings cannabis oil in harmony with other extract products in terms of packaging, labeling and the ten milligram THC limit.

Although October 17, 2020 was always the expected date for this change, Health Canada is now giving processors, distributors and retailers until March 31, 2021 to sell or deplete inventory, due to logistical concerns connected with COVID-19 efforts.

When the legal sale of cannabis products belonging to the edible cannabis, cannabis extracts, and cannabis topicals classes was authorized under the Cannabis Act on October 17, 2019, certain provisions were written into the law exemption cannabis oil from aspects of the regulations.

This provision was largely due to the fact cannabis oils, despite being a type of cannabis extract, had been legal prior to the creation of the “extract” category on October 17, 2019. Because producers often had significant inventory on hand already packaged and labeled under previous regulations.

This will also mean cannabis oil products will now be subject to the limit of 1,000 milligrams of THC per container.

Health Canada based this decision on stakeholder feedback following public consultation launched on December 20, 2018. During the 60-day public comment period, Health Canada received nearly 6,800 responses to an online questionnaire, and 350 written submissions. In addition, over 1,500 participants were reached through these targeted engagement sessions, including 162 participants over 7 in-person round tables and 1,297 participants in 8 webinars.

Health Canada says the majority of stakeholders supported the proposal to delete cannabis oil from Schedule 4 to the Act, and indicated that the new classes would accommodate a variety of oil-based products for various intended uses.

For consumers, little will change in terms of product, but for producers, distributors and retailers, steps will given to be taken to clear out supply and for producers, new packaging and labeling processes will have to be put in place.

More information and background on the transition period can be found under “Transitional provisions” under the “Packaging and labelling” section of the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement.

Similarly, Health Canada will be requiring producers who sell “fresh cannabis” after October 16, 2020, to ensure those products are labelled with a dried cannabis equivalency statement in accordance with the Cannabis Regulations. Currently, no producers sell fresh cannabis to consumers.

In addition, after October 16, 2020, holders of a federal licence for cultivation or a licence for processing will be required to label any dried cannabis or fresh cannabis for sale with cannabinoid levels in milligrams per gram rather than as a percentage.