A cannabis company has had to recall one lot of cannabis pre-rolls from the Ontario market for not being potent enough.
Ontario producer Weed Me recalled packages of their Diamond District Sativa Pre-rolls (Diamond Lemon Cream), which were labelled as infused pre-rolls but only contain dried cannabis. Because of this, the products are also listed as having higher THC levels labelled than the actual THC in the pre-rolls.
The printed value of THC on the 3 unit packs of 0.5 gram pre-rolls was 410 mg/g THC (41% THC) while the actual value was only 264.4 mg/g THC (26.4% THC). Weed Me’s Diamond District pre-rolls are normally infused with THCa diamonds.
This product was sold through the Ontario Cannabis Store and through authorized retailers in Ontario.
To date, neither Weed Me Inc. nor Health Canada has received any complaints related to the recalled lot. Neither Weed Me Inc. nor Health Canada has received any adverse reaction reports for the recalled lot.
There were 1,230 units of recalled products sold from November 23 to December 2, 2022.
According to the OCS, “a non-infused batch of Lemon Cream milled cannabis was erroneously used to make the Diamond District Sativa Pre-rolls that are supposed to be made with milled cannabis infused with THCa isolate. Potency of actual product is lower than label claim.”
Health Canada notes that consumers should verify whether their product is affected and, if they wish to return the affected product, contact the retail store where it was purchased.
Health Canada also reminds Canadians to report any health or safety complaints related to the use of this cannabis product or any other cannabis product by filling out the online complaint form.
Inaccurate labelling is one of the most common reasons for cannabis product recalls in Canada.
Health Canada has announced new changes to the cannabis regulations today, which include increased beverage possession limits.
The changes announced today will also facilitate non-therapeutic research with human participants; allow analytical testing licence holders and government labs to produce, distribute, and sell cannabis reference standards and manufacture and assemble test kits; and will expand acceptable qualifications for the head of laboratory position.
The Regulations Amending Certain Regulations Concerning Cannabis Research and Testing and Cannabis Beverages and the Order Amending Schedule 3 to the Cannabis Act came into force on December 2, 2022, and will be published in the Canada Gazette, Part II on December 21, 2022.
The changes were first announced as part of the Forward Regulatory Plan 2022-2024, and a Notice of Intent on the proposed changes was first published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, on December 12, 2020. The final changes were to be announced by the end of 2022.
The changes to the public possession limit for cannabis beverages would mean adult Canadians could possess up to as many as 48 cans rather than the five allowed previously.
Cannabis beverage makers in the industry have been lobbying for these changes since the rules were first announced several years ago, noting that only allowing consumers to buy five cans at a time was not practical.
The changes to cannabis product rules will mean product testing will be easier and will change how labs can engage in cannabis testing practices. The changes to cannabis product testing (so-called “human trials”) should also assist the industry in more easily allowing the sampling of products still in the R&D phase.
Previously, the regulations required additional product testing authorizations that some licence holders found too challenging to obtain. This is true not only for sampling dried flower, but also for products like edibles, beverages, and vape pens that producers otherwise have a limited ability to test for taste or effect until after they are released into the consumer market.
Although on the surface these changes around flavouring appear quite strict, they are written in a way that still allows smells and flavours associated with cannabis to be used, either from cannabis-derived or non-cannabis-derived sources, says one industry expert.
For those provinces and territories that reference the federal public possession limits to set purchase limits, these purchase limits will automatically change for cannabis beverages. However, for those provinces and territories that do not reference the federal public possession limits, they would need to amend their framework in order to align purchase limits to the new federal public possession limit.
Health Canada is also currently conducting a review of the Cannabis Act itself, with a report to be tabled no later than spring 2024.
As of December 2, 2022, the amount of cannabis beverages that an adult can possess in public for non-medical purposes has increased to forty-eight 355 mL standard-sized beverage cans (approximately 17.1 L) compared to the previous limit of approximately five 355 mL cans of cannabis beverages.
Existing controls within the Cannabis Regulations remain in order to address the risks of overconsumption and accidental consumption.
Holders of a processing licence have a 12-month transition period to update the labels of affected cannabis beverages.
Other authorized persons (e.g., provincially and territorially authorized distributors and retailers) can continue to sell or distribute their existing inventory of previously labelled and packaged cannabis beverages.
Facilitation of non-therapeutic research on cannabis:
Non-therapeutic research on cannabis involving human participants no longer needs to meet the requirements for clinical trials under the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR).
It is now possible to conduct this research solely under the Cannabis Regulations. These amendments allow researchers to investigate cannabis and its effects from a non-therapeutic perspective and allow more research for cannabis product development.
The Cannabis Act and its regulations include appropriate health and safety controls to protect research participants.
Clinical trials with cannabis that are currently underway are not impacted by these changes. The FDR and relevant sections of the Cannabis Regulations continue to regulate such research (e.g. requirements for a research licence, cannabis production and record retention).
Existing research licence holders conducting research with human participants have a 24-month transition period to submit new applications, or in some cases, amend their existing licenses.
Improving access to cannabis testing materials:
Analytical testing licence holders and government laboratories can now produce, distribute, and sell reference standards and manufacture and assemble test kits.
Individuals working in government laboratories are automatically allowed to do these activities.
Current analytical testing licence holders will need to amend their licence to be authorized for these activities.
Updated qualifications for Head of Laboratory positions for analytical testing licenses:
The educational qualifications for the Head of Laboratory position for an analytical testing licence holder have been expanded to allow for a larger pool of qualified candidates to occupy this role.
Cannabis sales increased in BC and prices dropped in the second quarter of 2022 compared to the same time period in 2021.
These figures increased from the previous quarter as well, despite the shutdown of the province’s central distribution warehouse from August 15 to August 31 due to a strike.
The BCLDB’s newest quarterly cannabis sales data shows an 18% increase in wholesale cannabis grams, an 8% increase in wholesale sales, and an 8% overall price decrease, while the number of cannabis stores increased by nearly 18% in Q2 2022 compared to Q2 2021.
The report covers July, August, and September. The LDB began sharing these quarterly results in October, with their Q1 2022 release.
Despite these sales increases and price drops, overall sales of dried flower in the province declined in Q2 compared to last year by 13% and nearly 9% in gram totals. These declines were offset by increases in beverages (7%), edibles (27%), inhalable extracts (62%), pre-rolls (13%), and seeds (59%).
Ingestible extracts (16% of total sales), and topicals (20% of total sales) also declined compared to Q2 2022.
Carbonated beverages saw a 37% increase in sales compared to Q2 2021, while all other beverage categories declined.
In the cannabis edibles category, increases were in the “other edibles” (49%) and cannabis chews (33%) categories, while baked goods declined by 20%, chocolate by 10%, and hard candy by 91%.
The biggest increase in the inhalable extracts category was “other inhalables”—which includes infused pre-rolls—at 571%. Disposable pens increased by 235%, wax sales increased by 148%, carts by 24%, hash by 21%, resin and rosin by 19%, and shatter by 12%.
Direct Delivery sales, which launched in August of this year, saw $704,978 in sales, with $285,633 coming from dried flower and $279,240 in pre-rolls, $133,448 in inhalable extracts, and $6,657 in edibles and beverages.
It was decided that the ‘defining feature’ of a cannabis edible was that it is consumed “as food”. This directive is delightfully vague in its precision, in that anything that is not consumed as food is therefore not an edible.
Organigram saw this as an opportunity to side-step a glaring issue in current regulations: 10mg THC caps on packages of edibles. The workaround is simply to produce an edible that is not consumed “as food”—hence the naming conventions of lozenges, sublinguals, etc. And their Edison Jolts were born. 10mg THC each with 10 lozenges in a package, for a total of 100mg THC.
Organigram declined to provide comment on this topic, but Kate Hillyar, Senior Manager of Corporate Communications at Aurora, commented that they “…develop innovative products while staying within the federal regulatory framework. We developed Glitches based on an insight that consumers wanted an ingestible extract that was an alternative to cannabis capsules but still provided a convenient, discreet format with a desirable taste.”
Glitches from Aurora’s brand Drift are perhaps the most interesting example of ‘non-edibles.’ They purport to replace capsules while providing a palatable flavour and a satisfying chew. However, like Flintstones Chewable Gummy Vitamins, they are not food.
In a response to questions about products like Aurora’s Glitches, a representative for Health Canada told StratCann that the agency is “aware of the product and is looking into this situation.”
This ‘not an edible’ nonetheless requires a category in which it can be approved, sorted, and sold. Like infused pre-rolls, the last concept to break the notion of category, the realm of ‘extract’ lay as a clear destination.
If ‘extracts’ can have milled flower, concentrates, paper, and terps (like infused pre-rolls), the tolerance for ‘additives’ appears to be the most forgiving.
Some forest-hardened potheads will go so far as to say that you can eat extracts straight from the jar, efficiency and palatability be damned for the purest high.
Andrea Dobbs, Co-founder of the Village Bloomery, a retailer in Vancouver, told StratCann that so far, “[edible extracts] are very well received. Good value and a happy medium between capsules and gummies. The [Kinslips, from California] took a minute to catch on, but they’re all caught up now. The edible extract marries value with candy. Folks dead set on value will go capsule, but many are looking to have a yummy infused treat.”
This section of the Cannabis Regulations can be affectionately referred to by some as ‘the loophole.’
Section (1) defines the ground rules for vape cartridges and any extract that needs something extra to reach its full potential. Section (2) puts some guardrails in the category that ensure your ‘honey oil’ isn’t just oily honey (because lungs don’t appreciate sugar).
All this comes together to mean that if you combine cannabinoids with carriers, flavours and stabilizing agents—as long as they’re not sugars or a few other banned substances—you can legally call your product an extract, with the excise tax and THC limit implications, as long as it is not consumed as food.
Cass Whichelo, Order Manager at an independent retail store in Ontario, told StratCann that, “nobody asks for them unless they’ve had them before. If they have questions, I point to our peppermint CBD oil and Blue Raspberry THC oil—the same thing that allows [them to be legal] allows Jolts.”
The current solutions and the implications
Hillier from Aurora explains, “Using oligofructose, a dietary fibre that maintains the quality and stability of the THC, our team was able to create a unique formulation for a chewable extract product, while staying within the regulatory requirements for THC levels and ingredients.”
Organigram submitted a patent in 2021, “Buccal Dosage Forms Comprising Oligosaccharides,” that is currently pending. They were the first to discover that oligofructose can be legally used in cannabis extracts and provide a versatile foundation for building these extracts. The Edison Jolts from Organigram, Lozenges from Loosh Brands’ A-ha!, and Drift Glitches from Aurora, use oligofructose as a scaffold for their cannabinoids and other ingredients.
All you need to know about this sweet-tasting oligosaccharide (from the Greek for ‘a few sugars’) is that it is not considered a sugar or sweetener in Canada while boasting 30% to 50% of the perceptible sweetness of standard sucrose. Biologically speaking, it is closer to dietary fibres like inulin.
Like fibre, it is not broken down by digestion and has few calories. It can contribute to gut health, but large amounts may also cause abdominal discomfort, gas, or cramping.
Ilya Serebryany, Founder and CEO of Loosh Brands, a privately held Toronto-based LP specializing in edible and ingestible cannabis products, told StratCann that “the use of plant-based fibres in sugar-free products has been a widespread and common practice for decades. While our extract lozenge formulation is, in fact, very simple, this industry is all about execution.”
The most obvious implication of current edible extracts is the different rules concerning excise tax and caps on allowable THC. Those who took the ‘traditional edible’ route, replete with sugar and ingredients often considered to be food, are rightly feeling a little snubbed by what could be considered a loophole.
Dobbs, the Vancouver cannabis retailer, continues by saying, “they actually translate as a value offering. You can buy a pack of 2 chews totalling $9 after tax, a bottle of 30 10mg capsules for $40 after tax, or a 10-pack of 10mg lozenges for around $20.”
Serebryany of Loosh Brands adds that “it is exorbitantly costly and wasteful to package 2-5 bite-sized pieces of an edible product in a child-proof pouch or container. Imagine one could only purchase tiny airplane-sized bottles of alcohol. This is the case for edibles and this embarrassing situation should be remedied as soon as possible.”
However, the grumblings of traditional edible manufacturers may soon turn to signs of interest. Those same edible craftsmen may need to simply ditch the sweeteners—a request more frequent from health-conscious consumers—to render their edible ‘edible’ a simple extract that can be consumed sublingually.
Jen, a keyholder at an independent retail chain in Ontario, explained, referring to the new Indiva Life products, “the customers love it. Like ‘Wow, 250mg, I’ll take that.’ They are completely aware of the 10mg limit, so when they see 250mg they’ll buy it with a smile and no hesitation.” However, in discussing any support she receives, she mentioned that she had, “yet to get any educational tools for these, I just know how to explain it because of my own research and experiences.”
In the midst of a review of the Cannabis Act as a whole, and in the context of a report-based compliance system, these ingestible extracts are unlikely to disappear any time soon. However, there remains the ticking clock of Organigram’s patent which, once approved, is likely to begin a flurry of litigation and/or licensing deals.
Serebryany, CEO of Loosh Brands, resolutely states that “we are proud of our successes in launching an impressive portfolio of highly differentiated ingestible cannabis products in our first year of commercial operations. Should regulations evolve to further limit or permit the availability of these or other products, we will tailor our offerings accordingly.”
– Roderick S. MacDonald. Rod is a freelance writer and communications consultant focused on the cannabis industry, legal and medical psychedelic therapies, and longevity through genetic and molecular engineering. After a decade in the lab researching cancer and ageing, he learned French in southern Quebec before landing in Belgium. He currently resides in London, Ontario.
A new research paper showing evidence of high levels of heavy metals in vape pens suggests the government should require more testing and labelling to help better protect consumers.
The study, a partnership between Health Canada’s Office of Cannabis Science and Surveillance and the National Research Council’s Metrology Research Centre, found evidence of high concentrations of some metals in cannabis vape liquids from both the legal and illegal markets in Canada.
Several of the samples—20 legal and 21 illegal—”significantly exceeded” the established tolerance limits for elemental impurities in inhaled products that are established by the European Pharmacopoeia.
The samples of cannabis vape liquids (from the OCS on the legal side and from the Ontario Provincial Police on the illegal side) were analyzed for metals that are commonly tested for in cannabis, such as arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and lead. These elements can be present from fertilizers, pesticides or other environmental reasons.
The samples were also then tested for metals that could be present due to leaching from the metallic parts of the vaping devices themselves, such as cobalt, chromium, copper, iron, and several others. Research suggests that the potentially high acidity of cannabis vape liquids can cause these metals to leach into the cannabis oil itself.
The concentrations of arsenic, mercury, and cadmium in all of the tested samples were within the generally accepted tolerance limits, but the concentration of lead exceeded the tolerance limit in one legal vape pen and six illegal ones. Levels of nickel were, in some cases, 900 times above the established limits in several illegal samples.
Only a few of the tested samples exceeded the limits for cobalt and vanadium, and several samples from both markets were above the limits for chromium, copper, nickel, and lead. Several of the samples from the illicit market showed lead concentrations up to 100 times higher than the allowable limit.
Researchers also noted variations in the concentrations of heavy metals in samples from the same products bought at the same time from the same production lot.
All vape pens tested were no more than eight months old, based on available packaging dates. The report noted that other research has shown increasing levels of leaching from nicotine vape products that have sat on shelves for more than two years, suggesting this same process could apply to cannabis vape pens as well.
Several other publications have identified metal particles in the aerosol generated from nicotine vape devices. The vape devices in these studies were heated and cooled multiple times to mimic normal consumer use better, leading to speculation that this process could add to the degradation of the metal into the vape liquid.
However, the products used in this study did not undergo such treatment. Researchers suggest this could point to other sources of contamination, such as the stainless steel aerosol tube and the core of the electrical connector, as a likely source of detected particles.
The health concerns due to the inhalation of these heavy metals, especially in often very fine aerosolized particles, are significant.
Inhaled metals are quickly absorbed through the respiratory tract and can be further transported to other organs. Researchers highlight that lungs are particularly susceptible to nickel toxicity, with adverse effects ranging from lung inflammatory changes to induced rhinitis and sinusitis or allergic dermatitis.
Even low exposure to inhaled lead can result in an increased risk of cardiovascular and kidney diseases, and inhalation of chromium and copper can lead to reduced lung function, an increased risk of asthma, respiratory irritation, or chest pain.
Adding to this, the presence of nanosized metal particles in vape aerosol is also a significant health concern. These very small particles can penetrate deep into the lungs, where they can be more easily absorbed and react even more strongly with the body.
The uneven heating potential of many cannabis vape pens is also a concern, as high levels of heat can potentially create additional new, dangerous compounds.
Because of this high presence of heavy metals in even legal vape pens, researchers in this paper suggest Health Canada and other cannabis regulators should consider requiring additional testing for heavy metals. Testing should also be required after cannabis has been processed into a vape liquid, not only the raw cannabis inputs, as Health Canada currently requires, adds the paper.
It also suggests Health Canada could require more information about the metal components of vape devices, along with the filling date of the vape device, to help consumers make more informed choices and standards for vaping device construction and the materials used.
These proposed amendments would restrict the production, sale, promotion, packaging, or labelling of inhaled cannabis extracts from having a flavour “other than the flavour of cannabis” and would apply equally to inhaled cannabis extracts sold for both medical and non-medical purposes.
Since infused pre-rolls began to hit the Canadian market late last year, they’ve been gaining popularity among consumers and producers alike.
While consumers are enticed by the promise of boosted potency and flavour, producers are finding that this new product category can be difficult to keep on store shelves given steadily increasing demand.
But manufacturing infused pre-rolls is no straightforward affair: basic non-infused pre-rolls are challenging enough to produce on their own, and extraction and infusion require expensive equipment and scientific expertise.
Scott Walters, President and CEO of BIG Concentrates Co., says that in addition to considering things like paper, flower mill size, and machine/equipment selection (which all factor into traditional pre-rolls) when working with extracts, environmental considerations play a much bigger part.
“You have to keep the room nice and cold and dry. When we’re mixing media, when we’re mixing bubble hash or diamonds, it’s incredibly important to keep the room clean, work in smaller batches, and work with teams that know exactly how the material is going to react.”
Walters says his team typically works in temperatures that are in the low teens to prevent their extract inputs from melting and becoming difficult or impossible to work with.
Over at Pinnrz, which recently began contract manufacturing infused pre-rolls for other brands, CEO John Prentice gives similar advice.
“Joints are challenging to begin with. You’ve got this product that people want to have a great experience when they smoke it, and it’s really critical that the construction and how that joint is put together is done properly before you get to what goes inside it.
“It gets complicated with infused joints because you have all of these parameters around making sure the product is homogenous.” He adds that because they’re categorized as an extract, there’s a lot less variability allowed in a given batch in terms of potency, “so you have to get a little more scientific about how you are approaching mixing your ingredients together to come up with your formulation.”
Where both Walters and Prentice stress the importance of starting from the basics when manufacturing infused pre-rolls, at ANC Cannabis—a contract pre-roll manufacturer based out of Alberta—CEO Tairence Rutter says he and his team basically needed to start from scratch with the manufacturing process for their infused SKUs.
“It is 100% different than traditional pre-rolls. We had to essentially reinvent our entire system, which was probably the most challenging aspect of becoming one of the leaders in infused pre-rolls.
“Treating it like it was a traditional pre-roll was a big mistake we made at first,” he continues. “We grossly miscalculated how complex this product would be—how demanding and taxing it would be on our facility. It requires two times the manpower of traditional pre-rolls.
“There are more steps than a traditional pre-roll. It’s no longer just mill, roll, and deliver. There’s a lot of quality and consistency pieces that go in, which made us really develop and adapt and become more scientific in our approach, so we created a lot of new checks and balances along the way.”
Adding to the complexity of the situation, there are many different types of extracts that can be infused into pre-rolls, from the basics like kief and diamonds to higher-end inputs like rosin and shatter, and they all come with their own unique advantages and disadvantages.
At BIG, their infused blunts are a natural expansion of the bubble hash their brand is well-known for. High-quality inputs are the name of the game there. As Walters puts it, “Quality in, quality out.”
But for contract manufacturers like Pinnrz and ANC, different clients have different needs, so their outfits need to be prepared to deliver on any potential combination of inputs.
According to Prentice, THC diamonds are by far the easiest to infuse into pre-rolls; however, they don’t do much to affect the quality of the product aside from just amplifying the effect, so while they might be a good option if the flower is already top-notch, if that isn’t the case, they can leave the smoking experience feeling hollow.
In terms of dealing with higher-end extracts like rosin and shatter, or liquid inputs like distillate, things become more challenging.
“What really sets us apart,” says Rutter at ANC, “is we have one of the only true infusion methods for fluid concentrate. So we can actually infuse flower with any fluid concentrate available.”
Meanwhile at Pinnrz, Prentice says that they’ve been working with bubble hash, kief, and diamonds, and are in the process of developing methods of using more challenging inputs like live resin, shatter, and distillate.
Different extract inputs also affect the smoking experience. According to Prentice: “diamonds don’t really slow down the burning. Where you’ll start to see things burn a little slower and take their time is more when you start getting into the live resins, the shatter infusions, the distillate infusions, because you are adding some component of moisture or oil into the product so that is going to slow down its burn rate and create a nicer experience.”
Walters and the team at BIG have used this in crafting their infused blunts to provide a longer smoking experience.
He says that BIG’s consumers are “looking for the flavour and the quality that we give them in a rosin in an easier to smoke format,” and so they’re aiming for “a really nice slow burn and a really beautiful experience,” noting that BIG’s infused one gram blunts can burn continuously for upwards of thirty minutes.
In terms of demand, the sky’s the limit. At ANC—a company that began as a micro-producer, then expanded to micro-processing, and eventually became a standard producer—Rutter says that they knew infused pre-rolls would eventually take off.
“We saw how popular they were in other markets like California, but the sheer velocity caught me off guard. It was like wildfire. Around November 2021 there were just one or two. Now a year later and it’s one of the fastest growing product categories.”
He adds that currently, roughly 50 percent of ANC’s pre-roll output is infused, but he expects that by this time next year that could rise to 75 percent.
Huron OPP say a warning they issued Monday about “suspected edibles” found in Halloween candy was a false alarm.
After putting out a press release on Monday warning of these suspected cannabis edibles based on a report from a concerned parent, the OPP says the person who distributed the candy reached out to tell them it was actually just regular candy they had packaged themselves.
“As a result of an earlier media release seeking information, the individual that distributed the Halloween treat bag contacted Huron OPP this evening. Police met with the individual and have since learned approximately 25 similar bags were distributed. The treat bags contained only candy.”
An image shared online by Huron OPP showed a picture of what appeared to be normal gummies along with plain black packaging. That image has since been deleted.
Police say the package of gummies involved in this incident was handed out in the Town of Wroxeter sometime Halloween night.
Thanks to our sponsors for supporting StratCann's work!