Health Canada to now allow foliar sprays and food grade modified atmosphere packaging

| David Brown

Health Canada has updated their approach to the use of foliar sprays and “modified atmosphere packaging” for cannabis products, effective immediately.

Beginning today, cultivation licence holders will be allowed to use foliar applications to plants for the purpose of applying nutrients or even watering and hydrating plants. In addition, processors will now be able to package products using certain Modified Atmospheric Packaging (MAP) that are intended to help ensure product freshness and shelf life.

The gasses used to displace air from packaging must still meet certain requirements, such as qualifying under food grade applications as for a food. In addition, each gas used for MAP should meet at least the food grade specifications listed for that gas in the most recent edition of the Combined Compendium of Food Additive Specifications or the Food Chemicals Codex.

In regard to the use of foliar applications, Health Canada had originally disallowed the approach in 2017 following the discovery of certain unapproved pesticides, at least one of which was an unlabeled pest control product, pyrethrin, inside an item sold as plant wash.

In response to these discoveries, the regulator at the time disallowed the use of any products that were applied in this fashion. Following the creation of more strict pesticide testing requirements, Health Canada’s Controlled Substance and Cannabis Branch (CSCB) says they are satisfied that their testing standards will now allow applying the use of foliar sprays without a risk to the public from unauthorized products such as pesticides.

The CSCB says that if a cultivator does apply fertilizers, nutrients, pest control products or wetting agents by the way of foliar application, they must ensure that all relevant regulations are followed. Licence holders were informed of more details on the issue and if they require more information, they should visit on Health Canada’s website and review the Cannabis Regulations.

Foliar feeding is one way a cultivator can apply nutrients directly to the leaves of the plant via a spray. This can provide for a more rapid uptake of nutrients than through the soil and roots, and can allow for minor corrections in nutrients beyond the basics (NPK: nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) to strengthen the plant. Growers can at times also hydrate their plants in ths method.

This process is not uncommon for plants of all kinds, and cannabis is no different. And prior to a recent pesticide scare, it was not an uncommon practice for some licensed producers of medical cannabis.