A cannabis producer says they were recently told their product would no longer be sold in Alberta due to them containing too much CBN.
The notice—sent in an email by their category manager at the AGLC (Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis, which oversees cannabis sales in the province)—came without advanced notice, says Jen Meyers, the CEO of Zelca Ltd, a micro processor located in Calgary, Alberta.
Zelca sells cannabis-infused sugar under the brand Manna. The product being delisted, Maple Sugar, comes in 4 x 2g sachets, each containing 2.5 mg THC, 5 mg CBD, and 10 mg CBN.
Despite Zelca being caught off guard, the AGLC tells StratCann via email that these changes are not new and were part of a notice the provincial regulator sent out in February of this year that referenced “minor intoxicating cannabinoids.”
“This change came into effect from February 2023 and AGLC depleted the on-hand inventory of impacted products,” noted an AGLC media representative in an email to StratCann. “AGLC worked with licensed producers and retailers to ensure they had ample time to understand and adjust to the change. Earlier this year, the Ontario Cannabis Store also implemented the same requirements based on Health Canada’s recommendations. We were informed by Health Canada that they did send out a notice to all LP’s on the same topic.”
The February document in question contained no specific reference to CBN, a cannabinoid not universally considered intoxicating. Several similar products that contain more than 10mg THC per package when including CBN within that total are still listed by the OCS. OCS has not yet responded to a media request for comment.
Health Canada tells StratCann they are currently developing a response to the issue.
From an email to StratCann, a representative with the AGLC says:
“To minimize the risks of overconsumption and adverse effects of cannabis products containing intoxicating cannabinoids, Health Canada recommended all provinces and territories consider implementing policy that limits the chance that any combination of intoxicating cannabinoids found within a product should not [sic] exceed the THC limits set out for edibles and extract products in the Cannabis Regulations.
“With this in mind, AGLC informed licensed producers of additional controls that will be applied to all intoxicating cannabinoids, specifically, 1) THC limit: The total amount of all intoxicating cannabinoids (delta-9-THC and other intoxicating cannabinoids) does not exceed the regulatory limits set for total delta-9-THC. 2) Labelling: Accurate information regarding the name and quantity or concentration of all intoxicating cannabinoids be put on the product label.
“AGLC has temporarily stopped accepting product submissions for products that contain any combination of intoxicating cannabinoids that exceed these THC limits. Please note, CBG is considered a non-intoxicating cannabinoid and sales of CBG products will not be impacted.”
The outreach from the AGLC so far doesn’t appear consistent. At least one other producer that also sells edibles products into the Alberta market with CBN—Indiva’s Pearls—tells StratCann that they have not received any specific notice about their products being delisted similar to Zelca’s.
In March of this year, Health Canada reached out to the cannabis industry seeking feedback on potential amendments to Cannabis Regulations, including whether the “limits on the maximum quantity of delta-9-THC contained in a cannabis product (by container and ingestible unit) apply to the sum total of all intoxicating cannabinoids found in the product.” It did not reference CBN specifically.
Sources close to the issue say the federal health agency has also floated a draft document to stakeholders with guidelines for licensed producers on the subject of these minor “intoxicating cannabinoids” such as Delta-8 THC, THC-V, as well as CBN, among others. However, no licensed producers StratCann has spoken to for this article have received official guidance from Health Canada on this subject in reference to including CBN within the existing THC limit for products like edibles.
StratCann reached out to other provincial regulators to see if they are enacting a similar rule around “minor intoxicating cannabinoids” that would include CBN and has not immediately received a response as of press time.
Edit: As of August 17, Cannabis NB now tells StratCann that Health Canada “has not provided guidance to Cannabis NB in regards to minor cannabinoids. Cannabis NB will continue to sell products that meet Health Canada guidelines and regulations.” This article will be updated as other provinces respond to requests.
In the past—such as with the decision to disallow the production and sales of so-called “edible extracts” that contained more than 10mg THC per package—Health Canada provided advanced notice before ending any product sales.
Meyers, with Zelca, says the most confusing part of this move is that it came with no notice. The small micro producer, which operates with just three employees, has fulfilled multiple orders for this product since February 15 including one as recent as early August.
Taking the product back will be a significant financial burden for a small company.
“They need to give us time to plan and submit new NNCPs (Notice of New Product Notifications) and develop new products. You can’t just pull the rug out from under us on this,” an exasperated Meyers tells StratCann.
She also doesn’t understand how CBN could be considered intoxicating, and says these kinds of decisions are part of what continues to drive consumers to the illicit market.
“Being able to provide our customers with unique formulations and highlighting different aspects of the plants in our product is one of the few competitive advantages we have over the black market,” she adds. “If you want people to cross over, it’s through these types of innovative products.”
StratCann also spoke with Niel Marotta, the president and CEO of Indiva, a cannabis producer that sells cannabis edibles with CBN into the Alberta market. Marotta says Indiva has not received any such guidance from the AGLC.
StratCann reached out to other producers with similar products for sale in Alberta and has yet to receive any on-record confirmations as of press time. A representative with a producer that also sells a similar CBN-infused edible says AGLC had sent them a request for more information about their products this week, but they had not received a stop order.
Marotta echoes Meyer’s comments about the need to be more competitive with the illicit market. Although Indiva hasn’t heard from the AGLC about any rule change regarding these novel cannabinoids, Indiva recently dealt with a similar challenge with its own ingestible extract products that had a stop sale issued earlier this year.
He says he’s also aware that Health Canada has been considering changes to the regulations to include products like delta-8 THC within the scope of the 10mg THC limit, but this is the first he has heard about potentially including CBN in that. He disputes the argument that CBN products can be considered “intoxicating” in the way delta-9 or even delta-8 would be.
He compares the limit to a rule that would only allow alcohol companies to sell products in mini bottles. “If this category is forced to continue operating in the equivalent of mini-bar bottles, you’re just handing a gift to the illicit market. I would go so far as to say that it’s irresponsible. They’re ignoring the real issue, which is that copycat edibles provide the value that the consumers want but none of the safety that our products provide. So they’re effectively encouraging the black market.”