Health Canada warns public to consume “non compliant” edible extracts with caution 

| David Brown

Health Canada issued a press release today warning Canadians of edible cannabis products like gummies and hard candies that they say are incorrectly marketed as cannabis extracts, saying they could lead to overconsumption of THC.

“Some edible cannabis products were found to contain more than the allowable limit of 10 mg of THC per package,” notes the press release. “These non-compliant products in product formats similar to gummies and other confectionery products, such as hard candy, have been incorrectly marketed and sold as cannabis extracts.”

The federal health authority also issued a new online document providing clarity on the issue of the classification of edible cannabis. The document, in part, notes that a cannabis edible is defined as any article manufactured, sold or represented for use as food or drink for human beings, chewing gum, or any ingredient that may be mixed with food for any purpose.

“Licence holders should verify if their cannabis products are classified correctly. Licence holders are encouraged to review the definitions of, and requirements for, cannabis and cannabis products in the Guide on composition requirements for cannabis products and Packaging and labelling guide for cannabis products.”

In an email to StratCann on Monday, March 6 a representative for the federal health authority confirmed they are sending out notices to companies making these “non-compliant” products.

“Federal licence holders that have non-compliant edible cannabis products have or will receive a Non-Compliance Determination Letter. This letter indicates the actions and the associated timelines that licence holders are expected to take to come back to compliance. Provincial and territorial distributors have been and will continue to be made aware in order to adjust their operations accordingly.”

Health Canada initially issued warnings to at least some producers or manufacturers of so-called “edible extracts” in January warning them they were not compliant with federal regulations. One producer, Vortex Cannabis, confirmed they received an order from Health Canada to stop sales of their Full Spectrum THC Jelly Cubes due to these being inaccurately classified as extracts rather than edibles. 

The Vortex Jelly Cubes came in 10mg THC squares that were sold with multiple units per pack. 

Several other companies make similar products, including Indiva, Organigram, Loosh, and Aurora Cannabis

While Organigram has declined to provide any additional comment on any notices they may have received from Health Canada, and Loosh and Indiva did not respond to requests for comment, a company spokesperson for Aurora cannabis did confirm receiving a letter from Health Canada in January. 

“We confirm we have received a letter from Health Canada in response to our written correspondence with them from January 10″, Michelle Lefler,​ VP of communications and public relations at Aurora, told StratCann via email.  

“We are carefully reviewing the letter and reiterate our commitment to compliance and upholding our trusted relationship with Health Canada. There is no change to our portfolio offering, and we will continue to fulfil commitments to our customers and Canadian consumers that look to buy Aurora products as part of their cannabis consumption choice. We firmly believe the legal cannabis market needs novel approaches that Canadian consumers seek in order to fight the illicit market that operates without any rules and oversight and poses a risk to public health. Innovation is vital to remaining relevant with the Canadian adult consumer, and we will continue to offer high-quality and innovative cannabis products to support the growth of the legal market, as we have always done.”

Health Canada limits edible cannabis products to a THC content of no more than 10mg per package. Cannabis producers were arguing that the products in question were in fact “extracts” and not edibles—an interpretation the federal regulator now confirms they do not agree with. 

More from Health Canada’s press release:

“Health Canada has become aware of edible cannabis products available for sale that contain a quantity of THC that exceeds the allowable limit of 10 mg of THC per package. Consumers of these items may accidentally consume higher than expected levels of THC, which can cause adverse reactions (side effects).

“These product formats, similar to gummies and other confectionary products such as hard candy, have been incorrectly marketed and sold as cannabis extracts. Cannabis extracts may contain up to 1,000 mg of THC per package, with up to 10 mg of THC per unit.

“Edible cannabis products are intended to be consumed in the same manner as food. They often have a pleasant taste, odour and texture, and look like conventional food or drinks. It takes longer to feel the effects of cannabis when it is ingested orally (by mouth), and the effects last longer than when cannabis is smoked or inhaled. As a result, there is an increased risk that edible cannabis products may be consumed accidentally (particularly by children) or overconsumed. To reduce these risks, the Cannabis Act and the Cannabis Regulations set out a number of legal requirements, such as the requirement for child-resistant packaging, and a prohibition against products that are appealing to young persons. The Regulations also prohibit edible cannabis products from containing more than 10 mg of THC per package. Edible cannabis products that do not comply with this requirement may pose a health and safety risk.”

This article will be updated below as new information comes in.

Representatives for both the BC LDB and OCS are aware of Health Canada’s communication today and are reviewing and determining next steps. Neither agency provided comment on if they also received any communications from Health Canada on the matter.

“The LDB is committed to complying with all regulations set out by Health Canada and will adhere to any changes to regulations that may occur,” a BC LDB representative told StratCann via email.

“We’re aware of the communication to Licensed Producers from Health Canada and we are examining the operational impacts of this notice” shared a representative from the OCS.

A representative for Cannabis NB says the agency has not received any communication from Health Canada on the issue, but says they hope to receive more information and official guidance on next steps.

A representative for the AGLC in Alberta confirmed with StratCann on March 6 that they had received notice from Health Canada about this issue. “AGLC is working with our partners to determine a response.”

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