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Preliminary report: Israel might apply import fees on Canadian cannabis

The Israeli Government has released its preliminary decision regarding accusations that Canadian cannabis companies are dumping low-cost cannabis products in the Israeli medical cannabis market.

The preliminary findings have determined a fair price and profit margin for Canadian companies selling cannabis into the Israeli market. A final version of the report, with finalized recommendations, is expected later this year.  

The commissioner has decided against imposing a temporary guarantee of any levies and will provide his final recommendations on the matter in the investigation’s final findings.

The companies involved have a period of 30 days to submit their comments and supplementary arguments in accordance with the findings of this decision before the publication of the final findings.

The investigation was announced in January 2024 by the Commissioner for Trade Levies at the Ministry of Economy and Industry, Danny Tal. 

In the course of the investigation, it was determined that the large volume of cannabis sold into the Israeli medical market from Canada was having a significant impact on both the local market and domestic companies’ ability to compete. 

These products, determined Tal’s report, were sold at lower prices that, he argues, do not reflect the normal course of business and at prices that are lower than production costs or from their prices in the Israeli market, especially given the additional costs of exporting cannabis from Canada. 

An example of some of the Canadian cannabis products available in the Israeli market.

Many Israeli cannabis companies told the investigators that they were forced to sell products at or below cost due to competition with lower-priced Canadian cannabis. Producers also said they were forced to destroy large amounts of cannabis they could not sell, in part due to these imports. 

Cannabis Magazine, an online publication in Israel, says that many Israeli medical patients have preferred Canadian cannabis because it is seen as a higher quality than locally-produced products. However, the report also notes that the quality of cannabis from licensed Israeli companies has improved in recent years. 

Israel imported 78,394 kg of cannabis from 2020-2023, with 62,345 kg coming from Canada, or about 80%. Other countries of origin were Portugal, Uruguay, and Uganda. 

The investigation looked into all Canadian cannabis companies selling products into the Israeli market. They specifically visited Organigram, Decibel, and Pure Sunfarms who welcomed investigators to look closer at their facilities and books. 

Once the investigators determined an accepted price and an export price per gram of cannabis, the commissioner calculated overflow rates in the complaint products for each of the three companies that cooperated with the investigation and for the rest of Canada.

Based on these factors, the investigator determined that these companies are entitled to an 8% profit on products sold into their local market. The investigation also determined that a fair price for Canadian cannabis sold into the Israeli market was about $2-8 a gram (in Canadian dollars).

Based on investigations into Canadian production costs, including packaging and shipping, as well as additional export costs, the commissioner recommends a floating levy or tariff of 63% for Decibel, 74% for Pure Sunfarms, 112% for Organigram, and 369% for all other producers.

The preliminary report states that the commission will also submit a report on its findings to the World Trade Organization.

All prices in CAD unless otherwise noted

The floating prices exist, explains a notice by the commissioner (Translated), “when the foreign producer exports the goods at prices lower than their production costs or their price in the country of origin. Such imports are defined in the World Trade Organization as “unfair trade” and according to the WTO’s Export Convention, the country may protect its domestic market in such cases by imposing an export levy, which compares the import price to the price that reflects fair competition.”

“Sales at floating prices,” it continues, “may arise in cases where the foreign manufacturer suffers from excess inventory that is not sold in his local market alongside a limited validity of the goods that affects his ability to store unsold production surpluses, or in cases where he wishes to capture market share in the importing country even at the cost of a continuous damage to his profitability due to long-term considerations, range of penetration and establishment of its activity in foreign markets.”

The report found that Organigram exported about 5,000-1,000 kg of cannabis flower to Israel in 2023. The investigator determined that a fair price for their products on the market was NIS$10-20, or about CAD$3.75-$7.50 per gram. NIS is the new Israeli Shekel.

The investigator found an acceptable price for Decibel’s products in the Israeli market was also about NIS$10-20. Pure Sunfarms’ products were determined to be about NIS$5-15 per gram, or CAD$2-6.

Another recent report shows that the use of medical cannabis in Israel has been declining in the last six months. A similar trend has been emerging in Canada.

The report notes that the Israeli market faces similar challenges to the Canadian market and others around the world, dealing with market contraction after an initial rush, over-supply, and other issues.  

Many Canadian companies have touted their export sales to countries like Israel as a way to command a better price than in the domestic market and deal with the large volume of product in their vaults.

Despite the increased costs associated with exports, which include special approvals and certifications, producers can often find better payment terms in the export market than selling into provincial markets, where payments can take weeks or even months.  

Stay tuned to StratCann for more on this issue as it evolves.

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Study finds inaccurate labelling on some cannabis oils in Ontario

A study from researchers in Ontario says that some cannabis oils on the market in Canada are inaccurately labelled for THC and CBD.

While there have been many studies looking at the accuracy of labelling on cannabis flower and edibles, and some extracts, this is potentially the first study to look at legal cannabis oils. 

In a case series study, researchers at McMaster University and St Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton tested 30 cannabis oil products available on the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) website. 

The amount of THC and CBD in those products was then tested by the Centre for Microbial Chemical Biology at McMaster University for comparison against the amounts listed on the product label.

While none of the products contained significantly more THC than the labelled amount, 12 of the 30 tested products were found to be outside of the allowable variable limit for THC, and three products were outside the variability limit for CBD. 

Of the 16 cannabis oils tested that had a label amount of 2.5 mg/g THC or greater, seven of them had amounts that were lower than what was labelled by more than the 15% allowable variance. 

In addition, the study found discrepancies between the amount of THC and CBD listed on the OCS website’s product description for 10 of 30 oil products.

Five products were also found to be labelled with inconsistent listings of active THC/CBD and total THC/CBD, with one product being labelled as having 5 mg/g CBD but found to be 26 mg/g total CBD upon secondary testing. Unlike products like dried flower, cannabis oils of the type the study looked at should generally have the same active and total THC/CBD amounts. 

The researchers involved argue that their findings merit greater quality control efforts by the industry, while also noting the limited scope of their research. The OCS currently lists around 50 cannabis oil SKUs online.


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Health Canada issues recall for cannabis products containing undeclared intoxicating cannabinoid

An Alberta-based cannabis company has recalled several cannabis oils and softgels due to the “presumed presence” of hexahydrocannabinol (HHC), considered by Health Canada to be an intoxicating cannabinoid.

HHC is a “semisynthetic CBD” often synthesized from CBD.

The recall involves six lots of products from cannabis producer iNaturally Organic Inc’s Emprise CBN+CBD 50mg Softgels, NuLeaf Naturals 1800 mg Full Spectrum Hemp Multicannabinoid Oil Softgels, and NuLeaf Naturals 1800 mg Full Spectrum Hemp Multicannabinoid Oil cannabis extracts.

The NuLeaf Naturals oil contains Delta 9, CBC, CBD, CBG, and CBN each at 3 mg per softgel. The NuLeaf Naturals softgels contain CBC, CBD, CBG and CBN, each at 15 mg/ml.

The recalled products were sold in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and the Yukon, and through medical cannabis platforms Herbal Dispatch, Open Fields Winnipeg, and Médicibis.

Health Canada says the recall is due to the identified hazard of the presumed presence of hexahydrocannabinol, which consumers may not be aware of. To date, iNaturally Organic Inc. says it has received two adverse reaction reports about these products. Health Canada has received three adverse reaction reports and one complaint related to these products.

There were 8,526 units of Emprise CBN+CBD 50mg Softgels distributed, 2,286 units of NuLeaf Naturals 1,800 mg Full Spectrum Hemp Multicannabinoid Oil Softgels (with Delta 9, CBC, CBD, CBG and  CBN each at 3 mg per softgel) distributed, and 2,534 units of NuLeaf Naturals 1,800 mg Full Spectrum Hemp Multicannabinoid Oil (CBC, CBD, CBG and CBN, each at 15 mg/ml) distributed from December 2022 to May 31, 2024.

Health Canada says consumers should immediately stop using the product, either returning the product to where it was purchased or disposing of it. 

Mukhdeep Mangat, VP of operations at Emprise, tells StratCann that they have independent lab tests showing no presence of HHC and were surprised by Health Canada’s findings.

“Analytical testing laboratories working with iNaturally Organic did not detect HHC in any of the products prior to batch release.”   

“iNaturally Organic received two adverse event reports about all three products combined.  Health Canada received three adverse event reports and one complaint.  The adverse event reports and complaint total six reports after sale of well over 10,000 units total of the three products, or less than one in 1,000 units.  

“iNaturally Organic prioritizes the health of its customers and is investigating Health Canada’s assertion of presumed presence of HHC, despite no evidence of HHC in the products from analytical testing laboratories working with iNaturally Organic.”


Alberta now allowing private label cannabis products

Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) announced on May 31 that it will now allow private label cannabis products, effective immediately. 

In an online bulletin, the AGLC says it had amended certain sections of its Cannabis Representative Handbook (CRH) and the Retail Cannabis Store Handbook (RCSH) to allow for the new change. 

The AGLC requires license holders to notify the agency if a product registration is a Private Label.

According to the new AGLC rules, private label cannabis products, also known as Store Brand or White Label cannabis products, “must be listed at a wholesale price equal to or greater than the lowest general listed products that the cannabis supplier has in the same category and product type.”

No private label cannabis product arrangement between a cannabis supplier and a cannabis licensee can prevent the supplier from entering into another arrangement to produce private label products for another licensee. Such products cannot be used as an inducement. 

All such private label products are still subject to approval by the AGLC. The AGLC had first floated the idea in 2023

A “Private Label” product can include a licensee-specific name or logo, a licensee-trademarked name or logo, or a statement such as “manufactured exclusively for name of licensee.”

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario began allowing such products in 2022 after brief opposition to the program. 

Cannabis retail association ABLE BC says that in December 2023, the LCRB wrote that one of the next cannabis market controls to be reviewed is white-labelling. 

A handful of cannabis companies have entered into white label relationships for products in Canada.

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Week in Weed – May 11, 2024

This week, StratCann covered OCS’ announcement that it will be allowing farmgate stores to sell exclusive products and again asked where all the provincial cannabis tax revenue is going.

We also looked at a new lawsuit against the SQDC and a second round of raids at First Nations-owned cannabis stores in one BC community.

In financial cannabis news, SNDL, Village Farms, and Cronos released their Q1 2024 reports, and we shared our monthly cannabis jobs snapshot.

In other cannabis news…

One of the bigger stories this week was a rise in enforcement actions against cannabis consumers on the road in Saskatchewan

CBC ran an in-depth piece, noting that the number of Saskatchewan drivers caught behind the wheel with THC in their system was 20 times higher last year than in 2019, according to Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI).

Global News looked into the difficulty in accurately distinguishing between detection of cannabinoids and actual impairment, and the questionable accuracy of equipment like Draeger’s DrugTest 5000.

In related news, a PEI man found by police behind the wheel of a parked running vehicle and listening to the radio while more than four times over the legal cannabis limit has received a jail sentence.

CBC also looked at a recycling program for cannabis packaging in Ontario started by the owner of the cannabis store Green Light District in Windsor. The article also speaks with an employee at another cannabis shop who launched a petition calling on the OCS and AGCO to adopt a sustainable packaging and container return program. 

Aurora Cannabis announced its first shipment of three cultivars into New Zealand’s medical cannabis market.

Toronto’s Institute for Work & Health is hosting a webinar on May 14 on cannabis use and perceptions among Canadian workers after legalization, presenting data from 2018 to 2021.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) reminded people that they cannot order cannabis products from outside of Canada.

The BC Bud Corporation announced the appointment of Sean Flynn as its new Chief Commercial Officer, effective May 7th, 2024.

Carmel Cannabis received high marks from the Hamilton Spectator following a recent job fair.

Law 360 spoke with Kirk Tousaw and Russell Bennett about Manitoba’s new legislation to allow cannabis growing at home (subscription needed).

International cannabis

In the US, the AP reports that New York’s legal cannabis market has been hampered by inexperienced leaders who treated the state licensing agency like a “mission-driven” startup rather than a government office, according to an internal review released Friday.

New York’s Cannabis Director has been asked to step down as the Governor orders an overhaul of the state’s cannabis program.

A woman who arrived at Dublin airport from Canada with more than 12.5 kilos of cannabis in her suitcase has been jailed for four years. The 26-year-old was homeless in Toronto at the time of the offence in September and agreed to fly to Ireland with the cannabis in exchange for a payment of €3,000 (about $4,400 Canadian), a Dublin court heard.


Organigram recalls small batch of its Big Bag o Buds for having too much THC

Organigram has recalled one lot of its dried cannabis sold in Ontario due to a labelling error. 

The products, Big Bag o Buds CombOz GMO Cookies + Ultra Sour dried cannabis, were recalled due to the label showing a lower total THC level than was present in the cannabis.

The 28 gram SKUs (two 14 gram units) were labelled as having total THC of 209 mg/g (20.9%), while the actual total was 271 mg/g (27.1%).

There were 138 units of recalled products sold from April 28, 2024 to May 9, 2024, lot number 11304240425.

Health Canada reminds consumers that they can contact the store where they purchased the cannabis if they wish to return it. 

Any health or safety complaints related to the use of this cannabis product or any other cannabis product can be made by filling out Health Canada’s online complaint form. Labelling errors are the most common reason for cannabis product recalls in Canada, and the process can be costly for producers. There have been five recalls listed by Health Canada for cannabis products so far in 2024.

Recall notice issued for Full Sesh ounce sold in BC, found through Cannabis Data Gathering Program

Health Canada has issued a recall notice for cannabis sold in BC due to potential microbial contamination.

The recall notice was published on April 24 for 28-gram SKUs of Full Sesh Purple Gelato Punch dried cannabis from Alberta’s Sirona Pharma Inc. The recall was first posted on the BC government’s cannabis website on April 22.

The recalled product was sold between September 18, 2023 and April 18, 2024. There were 1,200 units of recalled product sold under SKU 1062615, Lot PG23102. The product was packaged on 2023-09-07.

Health Canada reminds consumers that they can return the product to the retailer where the product was purchased. At the time the recall was issued, neither Health Canada nor Sirona Pharma Inc. had reported receiving any complaints or adverse reaction reports for the recalled cannabis product lot.

Health Canada says the product was discovered through their Cannabis Data Gathering Program, launched in 2023. As a result of that sampling, Health Canada determined that the affected product does not meet certain microbial contaminant limits for yeast, mould, and bacteria as specified by the Good Production Practices requirements of the Cannabis Regulations.

As part of that program, Health Canada’s Regulatory Operations and Enforcement Branch Cannabis Laboratory (ROEB) randomly purchases cannabis products from authorized retailers in Canada. 

This recall is the first Health Canada has reported as being triggered by this type of program. The majority of recalls for cannabis products in Canada since legalization have been due to labelling errors

In March, Sirona Pharma Inc. had another product recall, this time due to such a labelling error. The product labelled showed 1.4mg/g THC instead of the accurate amount of 14 mg/g.


$5,000 fine for Winnipeg woman who gave out cannabis edibles on Halloween

A woman who says she accidentally handed out illegal cannabis edibles on Halloween in 2022 has received a $5,000 fine from a provincial court. 

The ruling, handed down on March 25, 2024, came after charges against her husband were stayed in 2023. 

Sheldon Chochinov and his wife, Tammy Sigurdur, said they gave out THC candies to multiple people, including young people under the age of 18, on October 31, 2022. Sigurdur previously pleaded guilty to charges of supplying cannabis to a young person and possessing cannabis that is not packed, labelled, or stamped. 

Sigurdur told the court that she wasn’t aware she had packed up the illegal edibles because she wasn’t wearing her glasses. She said the edibles, which were packaged to look like Nerds and other branded candy, were her husband’s property. He also said he did not notice that the candy he was handing out was the cannabis-infused edibles. 

The couple say they didn’t realize what they had done until people began posting pictures of the candy on social media. The husband and wife then provided the police with a detailed statement.

Several local media outlets have covered the newest ruling in detail, including CBC and the Winnipeg Free Press

Similar infused Nerds knockoff candies made headlines recently when several young people in Halifax were sent to hospital after consuming the illicit infused candies.


Image via Winnipeg Police

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Media continues to misreport issues relating to illicit cannabis edibles

Following an incident in Halifax where several students under the age of twelve were taken to hospital after eating cannabis edibles, a new media report confirms the edibles were not legal. 

While the initial media reports did not note if the products were legal or illegal, the article referred to them as “labelled.”

A follow-up article from the Canadian Press shows a picture of what is clearly an edible from the illicit market, but the article itself predictably fails to clearly note the distinction between legal and illegal edibles and how they are packaged and sold, or the THC content of those products. 

This is an ongoing issue, with researchers, academics, and the media still seemingly unaware of how widespread these illicit, unregulated edibles are, packaged to mimic traditional candy and snack foods like Nerds, Doritos, Oreos, Skittles and many more. 

In this most recent incident in Halifax, at least five kids consumed the product after one child brought them to school. Four of those kids went to the hospital for their symptoms. 

One mother, a healthcare worker, said in an interview that her son threw up multiple times and had to be rushed to the emergency department. Another mother, who spoke to the Canadian Press on the condition of anonymity, said her child was taken to intensive care for treatment before stabilizing.

Despite the image shown in the article showing a package of “Nerd Bites” advertising at least 1,000mg THC, with each “bite” containing 200mg THC, the article itself does very little to clearly communicate that these are not products from Canada’s legal cannabis industry.  

A modicum of research would clearly show the author of the article that legal cannabis edible products cannot be packaged in such a way, do not resemble regular candies like Nerds, and can only come with 10mg THC per package, not 1,000.

Only halfway down the article does the author cite a comment from the NSLC that notes this discrepancy. But even then, the article doesn’t make the distinction clear or even attempt to do so. 

“A spokeswoman for the Nova Scotia Liquor Corp., the only licensed distributor of cannabis products in the province, says it only buys from licensed producers who are regulated by Health Canada and the federal Cannabis Act. The law generally prohibits the promotion of cannabis, and packaging is to adhere to strict requirements including labelling, child-resistant containers, and plain packaging that must not appeal to youth,” reports the Canadian press, attributing the comment to a media representative for NSLC.

This type of lazy conflation of the significant difference between legal and illegal edible products is not new. Researchers and media in the past few years have breathlessly reported on hospitalizations of young people after they consumed cannabis edibles, often without an acknowledgement of how prevalent these types of highly appealing and very high THC products are in Canada, or the fact they only became common in Canada around the same time legal edible products began hitting shelves.

Such distinctions are obvious for those who actually understand the law in Canada. Legal cannabis edibles cannot mimic trademarked snack product brands, cannot contain more than 10mg THC per package, and are sold only through authorized sources. 

As long as the media, academics, and other researchers continue to misunderstand such an obvious distinction, people will continue to be encouraged to blame the legal market for what is evidently an issue with the illegal, unregulated market. 

This also continues to impact the legal market, as concerns with issues like young people presenting at hospitals after consuming edibles are used to maintain the current 10mg THC limit for legal edibles, while ignoring that these hospitalizations are more than likely due to much higher potency products that are far more appealing and accessible to young people.


BC cannabis company is bringing infused poutine to the Quebec market

A British Columbia-based cannabis producer is adding a new twist on a distinctly Canadian dish, a cannabis-infused poutine sauce that will be available for sale in Quebec.

Rubicon Organics Inc., a cannabis producer with a focus on certified organic cannabis, announced today that its in-house brand, 1964 Supply Co., will be offering a cannabis-infused poutine sauce crafted with hash rosin.

The new “High Cuisine” poutine sauce, available now at the SQDC for about $8, is a mix that contains two containers, each with 5 mg of THC, and can be heated in a saucepan with water before being added to your fries and cheese curds, or anything else for that matter!

“We are excited to bring this one-of-a-kind product to the Quebec market,” said Melanie Ramsey, CCO of Rubicon Organics. “Our Cannabis-Infused Poutine Sauce is not only delicious but also provides consumers with a fun and innovative way to incorporate cannabis into their culinary adventures.”

Rubicon plans to expand distribution into other provinces in the coming weeks. 

Quebec has become a testing ground for more novel cannabis edibles that seek to conform to the province’s strict rules. Quebec does not allow the sale of edibles such as candies, desserts, chocolates, or other products deemed as being appealing to those under the age of 21—the legal age of access in Quebec. 

Instead, edible products in Quebec have included “cannabis bites” made of dates, hemp hearts, sunflower seeds, currants, and cinnamon, as well as unique products like infused beets, beef jerky, sausages, ramen, black currants, spicy crackers, figs, and cauliflower.

The SQDC claims it cannot provide details on how well specific edibles have sold but lists edible products in general as just under 1% of total sales in 2022-2023.


Recall of BonBon Turkish Delight cannabis edibles in Ontario

Health Canada has issued a recall for two lots of WellCann Intl. Inc.’s BonBon Turkish Delight – Lokum edible cannabis sold in Ontario. 

The recall is due to concerns the products may contain mould. 

In their recall notice, Health Canada says that WellCann Intl. Inc. has received one complaint regarding the recalled lots. It did not involve an adverse reaction. Health Canada has not received any complaints nor reports of adverse reactions related to the recalled lots.

There were 587 units of recalled product that were sold in Ontario from December 1, 2023, to February 8, 2024. The BonBon Turkish Delight came with two 15 gram products. 

The product contains water, sugar, rosewater, lemon extract, starch, pistachio, natural colour and flavour, and emulsifier.

Health Canada says consumers who are in possession of the products should immediately stop use. They can return the product to the retailer where the product was purchased, or dispose of it entirely. Opened products, cautions the federal health agency, should be disposed of safely and out of the reach of children and young persons.

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.

Ontario first listed the recall on February 13.


Trygg Collection variety Pack recalled in BC due to labelling error

Flowerchild Research has recalled one lot of its Trygg Collection Block Party Variety Pack of pre-rolls sold in BC due to a labelling error. 

These products, which contain 20 half-gram pre-rolls of Titanium Kush and Hell Monkey, did not have the required net weight, units, intended use, and product format listed on the label. 

The recalled product was sold from December 5, 2023 to December 13, 2023, and there were 1,559 units of recalled products sold (Lot 2333829).

Neither Flowerchild Research nor Health Canada have received any complaints or reports of adverse reactions related to the recalled lot.

Labelling errors remain the most common reason for cannabis product recalls in Canada.

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Auxly recalls one lot of Mandarin Cookies in Manitoba due to minor labelling error

Auxly Ottawa has recalled one lot of its Back Forty Sativa Mandarin Cookies dried cannabis, sold in Manitoba, due to a labelling and packaging error. 

The printed value on the label of the 3.5 gram SKU was 5.0 mg/g THC and 292.2 mg/g total THC. The actual values are 4.6 mg/g THC and 252.7 mg/g Total THC.

To date, Auxly Ottawa Inc. and Health Canada have not received any complaints related to the recalled lot, nor has Health Canada or Auxly Ottawa Inc. received any adverse reaction reports for the recalled cannabis product lot.

There were 571 units of recalled product sold in the Manitoba market from November 10 to November 21, 2023.

Health Canada says consumers should verify whether their product is affected and contact the store where it was purchased if they wish to return the product. Labelling errors are the most common reason for cannabis recalls in Canada. Health Canada has issued more than a dozen recalls for cannabis products so far in 2023, mostly relating to inaccurately labelled THC and CBD levels.

One of Auxly Ottawa’s two licences was listed as Revoked on Request by Health Canada in November.


No more “ingestible extracts” means some BC consumers discovering cannabis capsules

The brief appearance of ingestible extracts on cannabis shelves and their subsequent disappearance has potentially introduced more consumers to cannabis oil capsules, say some BC cannabis retailers. 

So-called ingestible extracts or “edible extracts”, sold with much more than the 10mg THC per package allowed in cannabis edibles, have become very popular with some consumers over the past year. Organigram’s introduction of their Edison Jolts, a 10mg THC lozenge sold with up to 25 each per package (250mg THC), first released in summer 2021, was soon followed by products like Aurora Glitches and several others in 2022 with similar high THC offerings per package.

Sales of these products shot up over the last few quarters in BC before Health Canada put a stop to the fun earlier this year, declaring them to be non-compliant with federal regulations. In early January 2023, Health Canada sent a notice to producers highlighting their concerns. Companies had until May 31, 2023, to cease sales and distribution

Although some retailers were able to stock up, many stores have since run out, and BC’s most recent quarterly report for Q2 2023 shows sales dropping significantly. 

However, their disappearance from shelves has given at least some retailers an opportunity to tell consumers about another similar product that has been available since the beginning of legalization: cannabis oils and cannabis oil capsules. 

While sales of cannabis capsules in BC slightly declined as ingestibles increased, their rapid decline in Q2 2023 was matched by a slight increase in the sale of cannabis oils. 

Kayla DeFazio, an Assistant Manager at Spiritleaf in Maple Ridge, one of the top-selling stores in the province, says she has seen that trend play out in her store, often guided by herself and other employees. 

Like the ingestible extracts, cannabis capsules offer consumers a similarly larger quality of THC per container, in individual servings of up to 10 mg THC, explains DeFazio, listing off one popular product in their store that offers ten, 50, and 100 capsule bottles with each capsule containing 10 mg THC.

“A lot of people really, truly think that it works best in a gummy. Maybe everyone else is finally catching on and realizing that is not the case.”

Mike Babins, Evergreen Cannabis

She points out that while these types of cannabis capsules have long been available, she thinks the conversation about the lack of these ingestible extracts has helped introduce them to many consumers who weren’t familiar with them. Consumers come in looking for ingestible extracts that they no longer carry, and they tell them about these other, similar products.

“We’re just trying to find a better solution for people. A lot of them have a higher tolerance, and they definitely need a higher dosage, so when we weren’t able to give them that with the (ingestible extracts), we tried to move them on to something as a different option. “

“A lot of people just really like the idea of having an edible, having a gummy, having different flavours,” she continues. “But then a lot of people were also turned off by the excess sugar. So once we showed them that there was a better price point and something maybe a little bit healthier, they had an easier time moving on to something new.”

“…a lot of people were also turned off by the excess sugar. So once we showed them that there was a better price point and something maybe a little bit healthier, they had an easier time moving on to something new.”

Kayla DeFazio, Spiritleaf in Maple Ridge

Trevor Pewarchuk, District Manager for Trees Cannabis, with multiple locations on Vancouver Island, says he’s also seen evidence of a similar trend in his stores.

Products like Edison Jolts and Aurora’s Glitches were “insanely popular,” says Pewarchuk, but he notes they quickly sold out once Health Canada told producers to stop shipping more to retailers. 

Instead, some consumers have gone back to buying edibles or gummies, he says, but some are discovering they can get a similar product with the same effect without the added sugar and at a lower cost when they buy cannabis oil capsules. 

“Generally, we would direct them in that case to an oil or a capsule option just because they tend to be the closest equivalent they can purchase with the max amount of active ingredient per dose,” explains Pewarchuk. 

However, he says most of the customers who were interested in those higher potency items were edible consumers already, and they are now just purchasing multiple packs to get the same effect.

“Some are going to oils, but many are just shifting to buying multiple edibles or multiple beverages.”

“Generally, we would direct them in that case to an oil or a capsule option just because they tend to be the closest equivalent they can purchase with the max amount of active ingredient per dose.”

Trevor Pewarchuk, Trees Cannabis

Meanwhile, in Vancouver’s first licenced cannabis store, Evergreen Cannabis, owner Mike Babins says this is a conversation he’s been having with consumers since edibles first began appearing in late 2019 or early 2020. 

“As soon as edibles came in, anyone coming in looking for (a large amount), we immediately say to them that we’re happy to sell you that, but you can buy a jar of (capsules) that are the same thing. You can then go next door and get a pack of gummy bears if you really need candy. And you can save a lot of money.”

Babins says he thinks there’s still a lot to do to educate consumers about products like cannabis oils and capsules, with some consumers believing that being in an “edible” form somehow increases its potency.

“A lot of people really, truly think that it works best in a gummy. Maybe everyone else is finally catching on and realizing that is not the case.

“Maybe the public is finally getting informed and starting to understand that there are other higher THC options for edibles. The more people who understand that, the easier it’s for us to guide them in that direction and help them decide.”

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Health Canada still says cannabis intended to be consumed as food is not an extract

Health Canada says it is currently in the “redetermination process” regarding its initial ruling on Edison Jolts from Organigram, following the recent announcement by the New Brunswick producer that it was re-releasing the products into several provincial markets. 

In early January 2023, following the release of several “ingestible/edible extracts” by a handful of cannabis producers, Health Canada sent a notice to producers highlighting their concerns with these products. Companies had until May 31, 2023, to cease sales and distribution

Organigram challenged this ruling in March, filing for a judicial review of Health Canada’s decision to require an end to sales of ingestible extracts that exceed the federal 10mg THC packaging limit. 

The filing, posted March 31, 2023, as Organigram Inc. v. Minister of Health et al., falls under Section 18.1 Application for Judicial Review. Judicial review is a process by which the courts can ensure that the decisions of administrative bodies like Health Canada are fair, reasonable, and lawful. 

In August, that application for judicial review of the ruling was approved. Organigram had also hoped to see Health Canada’s order quashed or set aside, but the court required Health Canada to determine that Edison Jolts lozenges are a cannabis extract and do not constitute edible cannabis under the Regulations.

While cannabis edibles are limited to 10mg THC per package, extracts are limited to 1000 mg THC per package.

In an email to StratCann, Health Canada maintains that it considers any product intended to be consumed as food cannot be considered an extract. 

“Edible cannabis is cannabis that is intended to be consumed in the same way as food and is excluded from the definition of a cannabis extract,” wrote a media representative of the federal health authority. 

“Health Canada is continuing to assess edibles and extracts in accordance with the promotion statement that we issued to federal licence holders in March of this year. The factors for determining whether a cannabis product is correctly classified remain the same.

“The department has identified a number of edible cannabis products marketed as cannabis extract products and is working with licence holders to resolve these issues. We continue to communicate with licence holders to make sure they understand the federal rules relating to edible cannabis and cannabis extracts.”

In late October, Organigram announced they were re-releasing their Edison Jolts into a handful of provincial markets, pending Health Canada’s new determination. 

“Health Canada has acknowledged that it accepts the decision of the court, and that it considers its initial classification decision on JOLTS to be void. As such, pending the final redetermination by Health Canada, Organigram has reinstated the commercialization of JOLTS,” a representative with Organigram told StratCann via email.

“Organigram remains of the view that Edison JOLTS are properly classified as a cannabis extract.”

The products, the spokesperson says, are being sold in New Brunswick now, and Organigram expects Jolts to be in retail stores in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Ontario soon.


Organigram says Jolts coming back to several provincial markets after Health Canada considers initial classification decision on the product to be void

Organigram, the New Brunswick producer that had its Jolts lozenges taken off shelves earlier this year, says it is again offering the “ingestible extract” product in several provincial markets. 

The move comes after a Federal Court ruled in August that Health Canada’s decision on the ingestible extracts was, in part, due to it including additional factors in its decision-making process that Ogranigram was not provided an opportunity to respond to.  

The judgement, posted on August 8, states that Organigram’s application for judicial review had been granted. The matter was then sent back to Health Canada for redetermination, taking the judge’s reasons into consideration.

Organigram now says that Health Canada has accepted the Judge’s ruling and that its initial ruling on Jolts being out of compliance is void. (editor’s note: This sentence has been slightly modified to ensure no misinterpretation.)

“On August 8th, the Federal Court ruled in Organigram’s favour by finding that Health Canada had breached its duty of procedural fairness in rendering its classification decision on JOLTS; the court ordered Health Canada to make a redetermination,” a representative with Organigram tells StratCann via email.

“Health Canada has acknowledged that it accepts the decision of the court, and that it considers its initial classification decision on JOLTS to be void. As such, pending the final redetermination by Health Canada, Organigram has reinstated the commercialization of JOLTS.”

“Organigram remains of the view that Edison JOLTS are properly classified as a cannabis extract.”

The products, the spokesperson says, are being sold in New Brunswick now, and Organigram expect Jolts to be in retail stores in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Ontario soon.

In an email sent October 31, in response to a request for comment on this new product availability, Health Canada said: “The judicial review decision from August 8, 2023 required that the classification of the Edison Jolts be sent back to Health Canada for redetermination. This redetermination process is currently underway and we are working to finalize it in a timely way.” 

Organigram and others who have made these products contend they are compliant products. 

In early January 2023, Health Canada sent a notice to producers highlighting their concerns with these types of products. Companies were told they had until May 31, 2023, to cease sales and distribution. They all complied.

Health Canada issued a public warning about these products on March 3. However, earlier this week, Health Canada told StratCann that it had again identified several edible cannabis products it deems as being incorrectly sold as cannabis extracts, and that the regulator is working with several cannabis producers to address the issue.

This article will be updated as more information becomes available.

Note: This article was updated to include new information from Organigram on which provinces Jolts will be available in soon.

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New concerns over possible “ingestible extracts” and cannabis lozenges

Health Canada says it has again identified several edible cannabis products it deems as being incorrectly sold as cannabis extracts.

A spokesperson for Health Canada tells StratCann via email that the regulator is working with several cannabis producers to address the issue.

“Health Canada has identified edible cannabis products erroneously being classified and marketed as cannabis extract products. These non-compliant products do not meet the controls in the Cannabis Act and Cannabis Regulations, which serve to mitigate against public health and public safety risks associated with edible cannabis. These controls include, but are not limited to, a maximum limit of 10 mg of THC per container to help reduce the risk of accidental or overconsumption; limits on the use of certain ingredients; and requirements for preventive control plans to reduce the risk of food-borne illness.

“In cases of potential non-compliance, Health Canada’s preference is for regulated parties to voluntarily undertake actions to come into compliance.”

Health Canada notice

Health Canada is working with several licence holders to resolve any non-compliance.”

Earlier this year, Health Canada sent notice to several companies making similar so-called edible or ingestible extracts containing more than 10 mg THC per container that they would need to cease selling and distributing those products. Health Canada also warned the public about consuming these products.

Since that time, several other similar products have also been released on the market that advertise themselves as cannabis extracts rather than edibles, despite being intended for oral ingestion.

Cannabis producers selling these products maintain that these products were not, and are not edibles, but the federal regulator disagreed.

The federal health authority also issued an online document earlier this year 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.

“The OCS is re-engaging with all its cannabis extracts suppliers to remind them of their ongoing obligation to ensure that product complies with applicable laws, including the Cannabis Act and Regulations.”

OCS Spokesperson

“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.

One cannabis producer selling such products is challenging Health Canada’s ruling in court. Organigram had to stop selling its ingestible extract product and had its application for judicial review approved in August. Organigram and others who have made these products maintain that they are compliant with all applicable regulations. The court case is now pending.

In instances of non-compliance, the same media representative for Health Canada says it takes a gradual approach to encouraging compliance with its regulations, and points out that they do not formally approve products for sale. Instead, they highlight that it is the responsibility of the licence holder to ensure that their cannabis products are compliant with the Cannabis Act and its regulations.

“In cases of potential non-compliance, Health Canada’s preference is for regulated parties to voluntarily undertake actions to come into compliance. As outlined in Health Canada’s Compliance and Enforcement Policy for the Cannabis Act, the Act contains a number of enforcement tools that may be considered in determining the appropriate actions to prevent or address non-compliance based on a review of the situation and all relevant information, including the public health or public safety risk and the compliance history of the individual or corporation.

“These include measures ranging from compliance promotion and awareness, which are intended to educate and prevent non-compliance, up to measures intended to correct non-compliance or address a public health or safety risk, such as the issuance of a warning letter, suspension or cancellation of a federal licence, the issuance of a ministerial order, or the issuance of administrative monetary penalties.”

The Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS), which manages distribution and sales in the province, has recently sent a memo to relevant licence holders reminding them of their responsibility to ensure products they submit to the OCS are compliant with all applicable regulations.

A spokesperson with OCS expands on this, saying the provincial organization will continue to work with its suppliers to ensure all products sold into Ontario’s legal market remain compliant.

“In response to Health Canada’s compliance statement, OCS engaged with its suppliers in March 2023, reminding them of their obligations to comply with applicable law and requesting they identify any affected products. On May 31, 2023, OCS stopped replenishing and accepting deliveries of all products that suppliers identified to OCS as being affected by the compliance statement.

“The OCS is re-engaging with all its cannabis extracts suppliers to remind them of their ongoing obligation to ensure that product complies with applicable laws, including the Cannabis Act and Regulations, and requiring attestation as to whether they have heard from Health Canada about any product(s) that may be affected by the compliance statement.”


Data presented by Health Canada indicate cannabis exports may continue growing

Data presented by Health Canada indicate that cannabis exports may continue to increase significantly, with more than a thousand applications already submitted as of September 12, 2023.

The federal regulator has already received 1,211 applications from Canadian companies seeking to export cannabis since the beginning of the fiscal year on April 1, 2023, and has approved 1,147. In a presentation made online on Tuesday, October 24, a representative with Health Canada said they expect these numbers to continue to increase. 

The number of applications and permits issued has been increasing on an annual basis, with 1,805 permits issued in 2022-2023, 1,421 in the previous year, 1,267 in 2020-21, 1,213 in 2019-20, and 272 in 2018-19.

The top countries for Canadian companies to export cannabis to are, in order, Australia, Germany, Israel, Argentina, the UK, and the US.

Canada’s Cannabis Regulations allow for the export of cannabis to countries with a recognized legal medical cannabis framework. Currently, exports are only allowed to countries with a medical cannabis framework, often helping to address supply gaps in various countries that have recently legalized. 

Canada also allows imports of cannabis on a very limited basis, such as importing starting materials (e.g., seeds, plants) for a new licence holder, or for small quantities of cannabis for research purposes.

Canadian licensed producers have been increasingly looking to overseas markets to address challenges related to the supply glut domestically.

As of March 2023, the most recent data from Statistics Canada shows that 125,981.76 kg of dried cannabis had been permitted to be exported from Canada, and 98,260.18 litres of cannabis oil. Only 28.05 kilograms of dried cannabis and 65.88 litres of oil were imported into Canada.

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Updated: OCS issues recall for two cannabis products for incorrect THC

The Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) has issued a recall for two cannabis products this week for incorrect THC values.

Editor’s note: This article was updated on September 25 to include Health Canada’s own recall notice for these products, including a recall notice for one product in Nova Scotia.

The first recall, posted September 19, is for Nugz Reefers—Lemon Linx Reefers prerolls from Cannara Biotech Inc. The second, posted September 21, is for Banana Mints, 3.5g dried flower from EastCann.

A representative with the OCS says the Licensed Producers initiated both of these voluntary recalls as the products were labeled with incorrect THC values.

Update: Health Canada has now issued a recall notice for this product as of September 25. The notice notes that 1152 units of recalled product were sold.

While the first recall was for THC levels incorrectly listed as too high, the second was for the labelled THC levels lower than the COA.

The Lemon Linx Reefers are 0.3 grams each and come in a ten-pack. They were packaged on August 31, 2023. The Lot Number is 3423004P1.

Although the Lemon Linx Reefers prerolls are not currently listed on the OCS website, a cached version of the listing advertiser the product having 205.00 – 270.00 mg/g THC (20.50 – 27.00 percent).

The labels incorrectly listed the THC values as THC 240.1 mg/g and Total THC 349.0 mg/g.

The correct THC Values are THC 22.9 mg/g and Total THC 209.3 mg/g.

The Banana Mints from Prime Pot Inc (dba as EastCann) was incorrectly labelled with a lower Total THC value in comparison to Total THC value on the Certificate of Analysis.

The OCS currently lists the product as having from 30 percent to 38.5 percent THC.

Update: Health Canada has now issued a recall for this product as of September 25. The recall is for lot number DB2023-1 with a packaging date of August 30, 2023, and another under the same lot number that was packaged on September 7. Health Canada’s recall includes products in Ontario and Nova Scotia.

The printed value on the label for the Banana Mints packaged on August 30 was Total THC: 304.01 mg/g and should have been Total THC: 362.96 mg/g. The label on the product packaged on September 7 was Total THC: 295.57 mg/g while it should have been Total THC: 362.96 mg/g. 886 units of recalled product were sold.


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Hidden Harvest Inc. and Remix Genetics collaborate to introduce seedless cannabis genetics to the Maritimes

A cannabis nursery in New Brunswick and another in Ontario are teaming up to bring “seedless” cannabis cultivars to the Maritime provinces. 

Hidden Harvest Inc., the only licensed cannabis nursery in New Brunswick, is bringing the seedless “triploid” cannabis cultivars to markets in Eastern Canada that were developed at the University of Guelph by researchers at Remix Genetics in Dundas, Ontario. 

While most cannabis cultivars, or “strains,” have two sets of matching chromosomes, known as “diploid” or 2n, Remix Genetics says they have developed special polyploid cultivars with more than two sets of matching chromosomes. These cannabis strains are referred to as 3n, 4n, etc., depending on the number of matching chromosomes. 

Remix maintains that these polyploid varieties can increase yield and finish faster, and can also create “seedless” strains that are not likely to produce seeds, saving growers headaches from lower yields.

Both companies say the first commercial offerings of this new product will be introduced to the market for purchase in early 2024.

“Innovation plays a crucial role in how Hidden Harvest delivers value to professional and at-home cannabis cultivators,” says Rod Wilson, CEO. “Our collaboration with Remix is an example and result of our continuous search for innovations that aid cannabis cultivators in achieving their harvest objectives.”

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AGLC says CBN policy based on federal guidelines, while Health Canada, provinces say otherwise

While Alberta’s AGLC maintains it has considered CBN within the THC limits on cannabis products like edibles, concentrates, or topicals, based on guidance from Health Canada, four other provincial cannabis agencies say they have received no such guidance.

A representative with Health Canada does confirm it is currently considering the development of a guidance document for licence holders concerning what it considers intoxicating cannabinoids other than delta-9-THC. They have not made any changes to the federal regulations at this time. 

The information comes in the wake of Alberta’s provincial distributor, the AGLC, reportedly telling some cannabis producers that it was including CBN within the federal 10mg THC limit for edibles. The AGLC says this was based on guidance from Health Canada, but points to a guidance document Health Canada published earlier this year that made no reference to CBN, only delta-8-THC and delta-10-THC.

While the AGLC tells StratCann that the regulatory change came into effect in February of this year, representatives from four other provincial cannabis agencies—New Brunswick’s Cannabis NB, BC’s LDB, Ontario’s OCS, and Quebec’s SQDC—tell StratCann that they have not received any guidance or directive from Health Canada regarding minor cannabinoids in general, nor CBN specifically. 

Cannabis NB:

“No, Health Canada has not provided guidance to Cannabis NB in regard to minor cannabinoids. Cannabis NB will continue to sell products that meet Health Canada guidelines and regulations,” writes Angela Bosse, a communications specialist with Cannabis NB.

BC LDB:

“The BC Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) has not received any recent direction from Health Canada regarding minor cannabinoids and the THC limit for edibles,” says Kate Bliney, a communications officer with the LDB, who also notes that in December 2022, the LDB advised licensed producers that it would not be registering or replenishing any products that contain delta-8-THC.

“At this time, the LDB has not issued any directives regarding other minor cannabinoids,” she adds.

The SQDC:

“The SQDC has not received any regulatory change or directive on regulatory application regarding minor cannabinoids,” writes Fabrice Giguère, communications advisor and spokesman for the SQDC, in an email to StratCann.

“We currently don’t have a policy on the matter. We have no reason to believe that any of our suppliers’ edible products are not compliant with both the federal and provincial regulations relating to the limit of THC. Hence, we’re not planning on delisting or removing any edible products.”

“In Québec, the maximum THC content allowed for ready-to-eat products is set at 10mg per package and 5mg per distinguishable unit contained within the package. As for ready-to-drink products, the maximum THC content allowed is set at 5mg per distinct unit.”

The OCS:

“The OCS is unaware of any formal guidance provided by Health Canada to Licensed Producers (LPs) of cannabis relating to suggested limits on intoxicating cannabinoids,”  Daffyd Roderick, Senior Director, Communications and Social Responsibility at the OCS.  “Should Health Canada issue formal guidance, the OCS will work with its LPs to understand the impacts and to support their compliance, as appropriate.”

While the AGLC told StratCann via email last week that the Ontario Cannabis Store also implemented the same requirements in regard to CBN based on Health Canada’s recommendations earlier this year, the OCS notes the only change they made was in reference to delta8-THC, not CBN or any other minor cannabinoids. 

“In December 2022, OCS made a proactive decision to begin limiting the sale of products containing delta-8 THC in response to health and safety concerns raised in the United States. At that time, the OCS communicated with both LPs and licensed cannabis retailers to notify them of this change, which was made out of an abundance of caution while the industry waited for formal guidance and direction from Health Canada on whether amendments are required to the Cannabis Act and its Regulations to address intoxicating cannabinoids and other synthetic derivatives not explicitly captured within the framework.

 “OCS remains committed to enabling a vibrant cannabis marketplace that offers adult consumers access to innovative, legal cannabis products, transitioning consumers away from unregulated sources and promoting social responsibility in connection with cannabis. Clear and specific regulatory guidance from Health Canada on the matter of intoxicating cannabinoids is critical to achieving these objectives.”

While the AGLC claims the change came into effect in February 2023, several producers tell StratCann that the AGLC continued to accept orders of products that contained CBN and fell outside of the province’s interpretation of these products by having more than 10mg THC, with CBN included in that total. 

AGLC points to a document they sent out in February as being the notice in question, but that document referred only to delta-8-THC and delta-10-THC, not CBN or any other minor cannabinoids. 

The AGLC also says the policy applies to any cannabis product “containing any combination of natural or synthetic intoxicating cannabinoids that exceed the THC limits set out for edibles and extract products in the Cannabis Regulations (10mg & 1000mg, respectively, per retail pack), including products with CBN.”

The 1,000mg THC limit would apply to concentrates and topicals. 

From an AGLC memo sent to producers and retailers on February 15, 2023

The Alberta cannabis agency also maintains that this rule about CBN was communicated to all LPs on Feb 15, 2023, when it says it requested LPs contact their respective AGLC category management specialists if they had any available products that were impacted by this policy. 

“It recently came to our attention that there are certain SKUs which remain non-compliant with this requirement and so we have begun notifying affected LPs,” an AGLC comms person tells StratCann via email. 

The AGLC says the list of cannabinoids it considers intoxicating is still changing and more could be added to the list in the future, which it says it is doing based on guidance from Health Canada.

“The cannabis plants make over 100 different minor/rare phytocannabinoids and there are also synthetic intoxicating cannabinoids created in lab,” continues AGLC’s communications team in an email to StratCann. “As such, the category of novel and minor intoxicating cannabinoids is still evolving. AGLC does not determine if a cannabinoid is intoxicating but instead follows guidance provided by Health Canada.

“The following are a few examples of intoxicating cannabinoids:

  • Natural: delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-8-THC), delta-10-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-10-THC), cannabinol (CBN), tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) etc.
  • Synthetic cannabinoid derivatives (currently not allowed in Alberta):  – tetrahydrocannabiphorol (THCP), tetrahydrocannabutol (THCB), tetrahydrocannabinol-O-acetate (THC-O) etc.

“As AGLC receives Health Canada guidance, it will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure LPs are aware of potential changes.”

A representative with Zelca, who was told by their category manager that one of their products was being immediately delisted, now says the AGLC has somewhat walked back their initial claim and will allow the sale of the in-stock Zelca product in question but will not be filling future orders.

Part of the confusion appears to be the inclusion of CBN as a “minor intoxicating cannabinoid” (MIC). While internal messaging shared with StratCann shows Health Canada is currently considering cannabinol (CBN) as a MIC, along with delta-8-THC, delta-10-THC, delta-6a-10a-THC, THC-O, HHC, THCV, THCP, and THCB, there is nothing official from Health Canada on the subject. However, the federal regulator has not issued any official regulator changes or guidelines regarding CBN to the provinces.  

“Health Canada is also currently considering the development of a guidance document that would help licence holders understand the application of the Cannabis Act and its regulations on intoxicating cannabinoids other than delta-9-THC,” Anna Maddison, senior media relations advisor with Health Canada, tells StratCann via email.

“As with other topics and issues, Health Canada has regular discussions with licence holders and industry associations such as the Cannabis Council of Canada, National Cannabis Working Group of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and C-45 Quality Association. The topic of intoxicating cannabinoids other than delta-9-THC has been raised in these discussions.”


Organigram’s application for judicial review of edible extracts ruling approved

A judge has approved Organigram’s application for judicial review of Health Canada’s decision that Jolts “ingestible extracts” were in contravention of the federal Cannabis Regulations.

The judgement, posted on August 8, states that Organigram’s application for judicial review has been granted. The matter will now be sent back to Health Canada for redetermination, taking the judge’s reasons into consideration.

The filing, posted March 31, 2023, as Organigram Inc. v. Minister of Health et al., falls under Section 18.1 Application for Judicial Review. Judicial review is a process by which the courts can ensure that the decisions of administrative bodies like Health Canada are fair, reasonable, and lawful. 

However, when all of the circumstances of the case are taken into account… I find that there was a breach of procedural fairness arising from inadequate notice of Health Canada’s reliance on a factor contained in the Compliance Promotion Statement and, as a result, that Organigram was not afforded a meaningful opportunity to respond to that concern and thereby prejudiced in its ability to respond to that concern.

Judge Cecily Y. Strickland, Organigram Inc. v. Minister of Health et al.

Organigram was seeking a judicial review following Health Canada’s move to end the production and sale of so-called “edible extracts” earlier this year. The company is one of a handful producing products in this category that were packaged exceeding the federal limit of 10mg THC per package for edibles. These were generally in the form of lozenges and gummies. 

The company had hoped to see Health Canada’s order quashed or set aside, instead requiring Health Canada to determine that its Jolts lozenges are a cannabis extract and do not constitute edible cannabis under the Regulations.

Organigram and others who have made these products contend they are compliant products. 

In early January 2023, Health Canada sent a notice to producers highlighting their concerns with these products. Companies were told they had until May 31, 2023, to cease sales and distribution. 

Health Canada issued a public warning about these products on March 3. 

“Some edible cannabis products were found to contain more than the allowable limit of 10mg 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.”

Although Organigram had argued that Health Canada’s decision that their edible or “ingestible” extract products weren’t compliant was incorrect, the judge disagreed. Instead, the judge ruled that the federal health agency’s process to reach that conclusion was not fair and deserved further analysis. 

The judge ruled that the unfairness of Health Canada’s decision on the ingestible extracts was, in part, due to it including additional factors in its decision-making process that Ogranigram was not provided an opportunity to respond to.  

For example, court records show that Health Canada introduced a “fourth factor” in the decision that was omitted from the Notice of Non-Compliance that it issued to Organigram. The judge argued this factor—the product’s sensory and physical characteristics—is not found in Health Canada’s Guidance Document because Organigram was not given an opportunity to respond to Health Canada’s objection to the Jolts size and shape or suitability for sublingual and buccal absorption.

Organigram was not afforded a meaningful opportunity to respond to that concern and thereby prejudiced in its ability to respond to that concern,” wrote the judge in their analysis.

“Given my finding that Health Canada breached the duty of procedural fairness by relying on a product classification factor found only in the Compliance Promotion Statement, which was published after the decision was issued, I need not address Organigram’s further procedural fairness submission based on delay, nor the submissions as to the reasonableness of the decision,” concluded judge Cecily Y. Strickland. 

“I am satisfied that a lower level of procedural fairness was owed to Organigram and that several opportunities to respond were provided to it throughout the decision-making process, with which Organigram engaged,” the judge also wrote in their ruling. “However, when all of the circumstances of the case are taken into account… I find that there was a breach of procedural fairness arising from inadequate notice of Health Canada’s reliance on a factor contained in the Compliance Promotion Statement and, as a result, that Organigram was not afforded a meaningful opportunity to respond to that concern and thereby prejudiced in its ability to respond to that concern.”

The case will now go back to Health Canada for their opportunity to respond. 

Health Canada initially issued warnings to 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, sold with multiple units per pack.

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

The court documents also reference the Vortex Jelly Cubes, which caused one woman to be taken to hospital where she was told she had overdosed on cannabis after consuming several of the product, assuming they contained only 10mg THC for the entire container, rather than 100mg THC.


Health Canada to begin testing of legal, illegal cannabis

Health Canada is launching a new data-gathering program on cannabis markets in Canada that will include sampling and testing of both legal and illegal products currently in the market. 

The federal agency says the new cannabis data-gathering program will allow it to “proactively collect information on the legal and illicit cannabis markets in Canada,” focusing on providing Canadians with more accurate info about cannabis health and safety risks. 

The federal government has gathered data on the legal and illegal cannabis markets for several years. This approach represents a new step towards more proactive data gathering on products in the market, both licit and illicit. 

As part of the program, Health Canada’s Regulatory Operations and Enforcement Branch (ROEB) Cannabis Laboratory will randomly purchase cannabis products from authorized retailers in Canada. It will also work with various law enforcement agencies to test samples of illicit cannabis products. 

The lab will test for THC and CBD levels, “specific analytes of interest,” and chemical or microbiological contaminants such as pesticides, moulds, etc. 

The agency will then publish reports on their findings, removing any references to product, brand or license holder names. However, if the program identifies deficiencies with any legal products they analyze, they will “take appropriate compliance and enforcement actions to mitigate health and safety risks if necessary.”

Health Canada says the program will also support their “efforts to ensure that legal cannabis products available on the Canadian market meet the requirements set out in the act and the regulations.” 

Health Canada has also begun work on guidance for licensees on cannabis products containing intoxicating cannabinoids other than delta-9-THC, and a consumer information sheet on intoxicating cannabinoids other than delta-9-THC.

Several provinces have released testing results of illicit products shared via law enforcement actions. In 2022, Ontario shared a study that showed illicit edibles have significantly less THC than advertised and high levels of pesticides. New Brunswick and British Columbia have also released similar testing results from illicit products.

The industry has also been calling on greater oversight of THC levels.

The C-45 Quality Association, an industry group representing quality assurance professionals and others working in the cannabis industry in Canada, said the announcement is a welcome one.

“The C-45 Quality Association welcomes Health Canada’s new initiate to illuminate the cannabis industry through its new Cannabis Data Gathering Program,” said Tom Ulanowski, Board Chair for C-45. “This proactive approach will improve transparency in product composition for both legal and illicit cannabis products, assuring Canadians of the quality-controlled supply of cannabis in the regulated market. The accountability this program instils will reinforce trust in the Canadian legal cannabis industry, while the insights gathered will help us better understand and address any potential health and safety risks associated with cannabis consumption, particularly when it comes to illicit cannabis products. This is a substantial step towards a more informed and responsible cannabis marketplace in Canada.”


The Good Weed Board, part four

SHOWCASING CANADA’S BEST DRIED FLOWER PRODUCTS 

Welcome to the Good Weed Board on StratCann, part four! Before diving into the ratings, I want to address the ongoing debate about lab testing and COA results. My readers should know where I stand on this issue. In my opinion, the advertisement of THC and terpene percentages is a marketing gimmick. Check out Part Two for more on this topic.

In regard to estimating potency, I would be happy if the THC percentage for dried flower was labelled as a range. The following three ranges would suffice: low (under 10%),  medium (10-20%), and high (over 20%). This would effectively undermine THC as the dominant marketing strategy and encourage stakeholders to prioritize more relevant quality metrics.  

As for quality grading, I tune out when a reviewer starts listing the THC or terpene percentage. THC does not equal potency, and terpene content does not equal intensity of aroma and flavour. They are only contributing factors. 

Underneath the surface, the formula for any given cultivar is more complex. There are often compounds at work that aren’t just terpenes. Compounds like thiols,  esters, and flavonoids all combine in different ways to produce an end result.  

Terpenes can be the primary influence behind some expressions of cannabis—profiles such as citrus, floral and spice. But more often, terpenes play a supportive role in the background. 

For example, the skunk gas aroma is a common characteristic of cannabis. Yet this attribute exists fundamentally because of a thiol, not a terpene. The same goes for many non-citrus fruity aromas. Blueberry, grape, banana, and cherry, to name just a few, are all the results of different esters.  

In my opinion, cannabis flower is never about just one compound. It’s always about the combination, the synergy. Now let’s look at the Part Four ratings. 

The first entry is Blueberry Yum Yum by Cake & Caviar. These flowers were produced by Habitat Life in Chase, British Columbia, using the nutrient-rich waters of Habitat’s aquaponics technology. 

This 3.5-gram product was packaged in an adequately sized glass jar, well proportioned to the buds inside. And the buds were gorgeous! They look similar to the Platinum Grapes by Organnicraft. Frosty, light green on the outside with lots of orange pistils, and layered with dark purple hues.

My first whiff smelled like grape juice or a bag of raisins. An Integra Boost Pack was placed at the bottom of the jar. The flower seemed cured to perfection, nice and squishy. A subtle blueberry aroma wafted out from the inside layers as I chopped the buds. 

The first smoke was delicious, boasting a molasses flavour reminiscent of dessert cultivars. Subsequent smokes revealed an earthy blueberry flavour. I was reminded of enjoying a glass of cognac. To me, this is sipping weed, a contemplative weed with a very clean burn and light-coloured ash. OG Rating = 83/100. 

The second entry for Part Four is Master Kush Ultra by Smoker Farms. Cultivated in Beaverdell, this product was packaged by Joint Venture Craft Cannabis under the BC Black banner. 

There was an Integra Boost Pack inside the mylar bag. The buds were a tad dry on the outside but adequately cured on the inside layers. They were small but dense, typical of old-school kush. 

I was overwhelmed by a dank, earthy, citrus profile at first open, complemented by skunk-like fuel. Chopping the flower revealed a combination of lime over lemon, blending into mint. There was also that lingering vintage MKU incense characteristic. 

Smoking the first joint brought a smile to my face. The flavour boasted loud fuel complimented by a peppery aftertaste. The burn was supreme, with a potent hit in the chest. This is relaxing weed. OG Rating = 84/100. 

The third entry is Funky Banana by Simply Bare Organic. This product is part of the Gas Series 28-gram rotating SKU in Alberta. I purchased this ounce bag from a Canna Cabana in Calgary for $195 after tax. 

Inside the package, I discovered medium-sized, dense buds. Despite being packaged more than two months prior, they still had decent moisture content. There wasn’t a humidity pack, but a little air was left inside the bag to protect the buds from being flattened. 

The flower exhibited a forest green colour. I was reminded of banana runts as I cracked open the bag. Then gas mixed with banana as I diced the buds up, along with a little bit of spice. 

A robust gas profile surfaced in the flavour, with banana subtle in the background.  The smoke packed a punch, rich but with a very pure aftertaste. OG Rating = 84/100. 

Last for Part Four is Crushed Velvet by Sweetgrass Cannabis. Cultivated in Ymir,  British Columbia, this flower was grown in living soil and is FVOPA organic certified. 

A fruity cereal aroma exploded out of the bag, reminiscent of dried cherries and cream. Inside was one solid 3.75g bud exhibiting a bit of foxtailing and an abundance of crystals. 

A savoury aroma wafted out from the inside layers, almost like roasted chicken. The flower broke up in hard bits, not completely fluffy, indicating low moisture content. 

But the first smoke was serene. It was highlighted by a very unique floral rose profile complimented by a hint of soap. The session featured a super smooth burn and complex flavour until the end of the joint, and a mild but very pleasant effect. OG  Rating = 82/100. 

That’s all for Part Four. I hope you enjoyed reading about these products as much as  I enjoyed smoking them. My next column will showcase four more products from the Good Weed Board. Stay tuned to find out if any of them break the current record score of 86. Happy blazing!


Marty Wig is the cofounder of Overgrown Gardens, and creator of the OG Rating Guide. He has been grading cannabis since 2003.

Updated: Health Canada issues recalls for two unauthorized cannabis products sold without market authorization (DIN) in Canada

The Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) has posted a recall for a cannabis product they say is an unapproved prescription drug.

In a notice posted online on April 18, the OCS says that the product “Goodnight Dream Caps” from Taima Extracts Inc. is being recalled due to a “risk calculation associated with this product” as a Type II recall.

A Type II (2) recall refers to a product that can cause temporary adverse health consequences or where the probability of serious adverse health consequences is remote.

There are generally three types of product recall designations in Canada, Type (or class) I, II, and III, with Type I representing the highest risk and Type III representing the lowest risk to public health. 

Most recalls for cannabis products in Canada have been Type III recalls, generally related to inaccurate labelling. 

This notice affects all lots and packaging dates of the product that was sold in Ontario. 

On April 20, Health Canada also issued their own recall notice for the product, stating it was an unauthorized product sold without market authorization (DIN) in Canada.

Although the product has now been removed, the soft gels were previously listed on the OCS website as each containing 20 mg of CBD, zero THC, as well as 10 mg of melatonin, and chamomile oil. 

The previous product listing on the OCS noted the producer was Voyage Cannabis, while the recall notice attributes the product to Taima. Voyage Cannabis was acquired by Heritage cannabis in 2022. The recall notice is not associated with Heritage Cannabis or Voyage Cannabis.

The OCS notice does not make it clear what caused the product to be considered an unapproved prescription drug.

Health Canada regulates melatonin under the Natural Health Products Regulations. It’s commonly advertised as an effective sleep aid; however, some medical experts warn that it can cause side effects such as dizziness, nausea, headaches, and muscle aches if used in high doses.

Health Canada recently issued a product recall for a CBD product on April 4 that contained 20mg of CBD and 3mg of Melatonin, calling it an “unauthorized product.” The notice said it was a product sold without market authorization (DIN) in Canada. A DIN is a Drug Identification Number.

Taima and the OCS were not immediately available for comment.

Any new cannabis product that enters the market must first provide Health Canada with a Notice of New Cannabis Product (NNCP) at least 60 calendar days before making the new cannabis product available for sale.

This article will be updated as new information becomes available. 

This article has been updated to note Health Canada issued a recall notice for the Goodnight Dream Caps in April 20.


Health Canada issues two new cannabis recalls due to inaccurate cannabinoid levels

Health Canada issued two new recalls of dried cannabis on April 18, one sold in Alberta and one in Saskatchewan.

Peace Naturals has issued a recall for their Spinach Kiwi Lime Punch pre-rolled joints that were sold in Alberta due to inaccurate THC levels. 

The products were labelled as having 20 mg/g of THC and total THC of 212 mg/g while the actual figure was 17 mg/g and 287 mg/g.

Twenty units of the product were sold from March 24 to April 4. The 0.35 gram pre-rolls came in packages of 10. 

Health Canada’s recall notice says that Peace Naturals received one consumer complaint based on inaccurate THC levels. Health Canada has not received any complaints. 

As always, Health Canada 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.

A second recall, also issued on April 18, was for inaccurate THC levels on Medz Cannabis Inc.’s Harts Charlottes Angel pre-rolls sold in Saskatchewan. 

There were 240 units sold where the THC, total THC, CBD and total CBD labelled are lower than the actual values in the product.

Neither Medz Cannabis Inc. or Health Canada have received any complaints as of publication.

The printed value of cannabinoids showed total THC of 2.9 mg/g but the actual value was 6.2 mg/g. CBD levels on the label were 1.3 mg/g but actual value was 10.5 mg/g. Total CBD was listed as 78 mg/g but the actual value was 130 mg/g.


Health Canada issues product recall for Pure Sun Farms BC Sour Kush for inaccurate labelling

Health Canada has issued a recall notice for cannabis due to an errant decimal point. 

Two lots of Pure Sunfarms Corp.’s Original Fraser Valley Weed Co. B.C. Sour Kush dried cannabis, both sold through the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) and through authorized retailers in Ontario, were recalled due to incorrect cannabinoid values.

The THC labelled is lower than the actual THC due to a misplaced decimal point. 

The OCS originally posted its own product recall for the BC Sour Kush on March 1. Both products were packaged on March 1. Health Canada’s own recall was posted on March 30.

To date, Pure Sunfarms Corp and Health Canada say they have not received any complaints related to the recalled lots. Neither Health Canada nor Pure Sunfarms Corp. has received any adverse reaction reports for the recalled cannabis product lots.

There were 1,442 units of recalled product sold in Ontario from March 14 to March 24, 2023.

The printed value on Lot number 03984 of the B.C. Sour Kush was THC: 9 mg/g (Total THC: 216 mg/g) and CBD: 0 mg/g (Total CBD: 0 mg/g). The correct labelling should have been THC 90 mg/g (Total THC: 216 mg/g) and CBD: 0 mg/g (Total CBD: 0 mg/g). 

Lot number 03985 was labelled as THC: 7 mg/g (Total THC: 202 mg/g) and CBD: 0 mg/g (Total CBD: 0 mg/g). The correct label should have read THC: 70 mg/g (Total THC: 202 mg/g) and CBD: 0 mg/g (Total CBD: 0 mg/g)

Related Articles

Mislabelling and packaging errors are the most common reason for cannabis product recalls in Canada: Health Canada currently notes 31 cannabis recalls for packaging and labelling errors. There have been only nine for a suspected quality concern, one for a chemical hazard, one for a dosage error, one for microbial contamination, and one for unauthorized product since legalization began in late 2018.


THC Testing—What it says vs What it is

THC content has been the talk of stoners since the molecule’s discovery. We’ve spent decades trying to maximize it—we figured out that stressing out unpollinated female flowers gives us the best buzz and, presumably, the most THC content.

Regardless of your opinion on how much—or even if—THC content affects overall quality, the percentage on the bag is often a large factor in consumers’ purchasing choices.

In the nineties, tokers were looking for legendary Cali bud that supposedly hit the elusive 20% mark. In the short time since, plant morphology has not changed all that much, but the internet has led to growers sharing the secrets they use to maximize trichome coverage. 

On a recent product call, the Ontario Cannabis Store is said to have requested more strains that tested above 30% THC. Suddenly, almost every new product in Ontario was hitting marks of 31%, 32%, even a couple 34% batches! Even old SKUs that had never sniffed 26% before were suddenly 30.5%. 

Such a steep jump in such a short amount of time, and seemingly relegated to Canada and California labs: Australian labs don’t seem to agree with our numbers up here—a batch of Orange Crescendo sent to Aussie medical outlet Alfie was purported to be 28%, but once tested down under, the new label for the batch was 22%. How did we get here?

In the Canadian legal market, online wholesalers, retailers, and most retail stores are set up in a way that makes THC and price the only things you can judge before the product is in your hands. This blind buying is causing more consumers to ask for the bud with the highest THC, and LP’s are incentivized to make sure they can always be on the top of that list.

The Cannabis Act prescribes a lot about the testing of cannabis, but never explicitly says how cannabis should be tested. Different labs use slightly different methods of finding the levels of cannabinoids, terpenes, bacteria, heavy metals, and all the other things Health Canada requires to be tested in cannabis. Now, certain labs have gained reputations as known “THC inflators,” and some suggest that tests from these labs should raise eyebrows.

One batch of a product recently launched in Ontario purportedly hit 39.58% total THC, and another claims 40.41%. These figures are usually found on cannabis concentrate products like hash and infused pre-rolls. THC and its precursor THCa are predominantly found in the trichome heads of cannabis plants. If these numbers are correct, we can expect approximately 45% or more of the cannabis by weight to be trichome heads. This dense covering of trichome heads would be immediately apparent to even the novice user.

“They should just put a range on the label. Or, even a disclaimer: ‘Flower in bag may be lower than advertised THC.’”

Jennawae Cavion of Calyx and Trichomes in Kingston

How to Test for THC

On a dreary Friday in March, I paid Thomas Fraleigh a visit at his lab in Mississauga. He took me on a tour of his surprisingly small testing space, walking me through the basics of microbial testing, terpene analysis, and cannabinoid content analysis. For the latter, Fraleigh’s lab, Vivariant, uses what’s known as high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), which most other accredited labs in Canada also use. There are different types of HPLC used, but the broad strokes are the same.

How it works for Vivariant, in layman’s terms, is that each sample is weighed, homogenized cryogenically, and a specific amount of that homogenized, powdery cannabis sample is combined with a sterile liquid. This combined solution is then put through an HPLC machine, where a filter separates the contents of the sample and each ingredient is registered by a detector.

The ingredients are separated one at a time, and once registered by the detector, they are plotted on a graph in relation to the time they took to separate. This leads to ‘spikes’ on a graph, one for each of the compounds tested for. These spikes are then measured against standard cannabinoid concentrations to find the levels of cannabinoids present in the sample.

Once that is known, a math formula is used that takes into account all of the factors going into the sample—sample weight, amount of cannabis sample powder added to sterile liquid—which then translates the amount of cannabinoids in the solution to the milligrams per gram we see on cannabis labels today.

One part of the process where Fraleigh thinks it may be possible to skew the result is the math formula at the end. One could, theoretically, add more of the cannabis powder sample to the sterile liquid than they account for in the end formula, leading to a higher concentration of cannabinoids in the end test, and therefore a higher overall percentage on the end result.

Vivariant’s methodology is tested regularly by Proficiency Testing Canada, an organization that sends labs homogenized cannabis samples for testing. The issue with this is that the samples are clearly marked. If a lab were purposely skewing results, it would be very simple for them to not skew the results provided to PT Canada.

Fact-Checking

Health Canada allows a 15% variance in the stated label claim of cannabinoid content on some regulated cannabis products. Theoretically this means that, legally, your bag that’s marked as 27% THC could contain some bud that tests anywhere from 23% to 31%.

What happens when the weed in the bag falls outside of that allowance? So far, not much. Tom Ulanowski, the chair of C-45 Quality Association, has been raising similar concerns with Health Canada as far back as October 2021. C-45 has a vested interest in accurate testing, as they represent a number of labs and quality assurance professionals across Canada’s cannabis industry. As of yet, Health Canada has not taken any action…. Well, not since 2015 at least. That was the last time Health Canada issued a recall of a product based on inaccurate THC labeling. And yes, eagle-eyed reader, 2015 was before recreational cannabis was legal.

So what would it take to trigger a recall? Let’s find out.

I submitted a sealed sample of the 39.58% bag, a product called Pearadise by Wink, to Vivariant for independent analysis. The result? Vivariant tested the flower in the bag at 22.19% Total THC—a whopping 44% below the nearly 40% stated on the label. I’ve submitted a complaint to Health Canada about the difference in the stated amount vs the tested amount. Wink responded saying they trust their lab, Pathogenia, to give accurate results, and offered the original batch Certificate of Analysis (COA).

Editor’s note: A representative for Weed Me, which brought the Wink product to market, provided this comment to StratCann in response noting they will begin vetting the results from their tests with multiple labs. In part:

“As more and more incredible people apply their remarkable skills perfecting their respective art of cultivating cannabis, we at Weed Me are continually impressed with what they are producing. Through improvements in techniques, fertilization, light and environmental controls and most importantly development of genetics, some of the results we see are hard to believe. 

“We equally listen to you as the consumer, and we hear that ultra high potency flower, approaching or exceeding that of infused products, can be hard to believe. In response to these concerns we will implement a competing double-testing methodology of any strains that test over 34% THC. We will submit samples for testing to 2 different 3rd party analytic laboratories and provide the average of the 2 in an effort to most accurately represent the product specifications. While the labs are licensed and regulated by Health Canada we feel it important to go the extra step and double-check. This testing is in addition to the testing provided to us by our cultivating partners.”

Other high-THC products are being called into question as well. High North Labs recently tested a sample, Raptors Rntz by Celebrity, that claimed on the bag to be 40.4% THC. Their tests showed the product to be only 28.74% total THC. This is still an impressive amount by most standards! But alas, it’s also 29% below the claim on the label.

The problem isn’t relegated to extremely high THC numbers, though. Rob O’Brien from Supra Research and Development also tested 46 different whole flower cannabis products in BC, with a variety of products and brands at different price points, THC levels, and bag sizes. Similar to Vivariant’s results, some products were up to 45% below the stated Total THC on the label. 

However, O’Brien believes his findings to be a result of inaccurate batch representation in testing, as he found larger buds tested much closer to the stated THC levels than the smaller buds. He believes this to be an issue with LPs who use one crop to fill various sized bags. Larger 3 or 4 gram buds will not fit into 1 gram bags, but are what’s used to test the potency of the whole batch.

What do we do from here?

Everyone has different ideas on how to fix this. Many believe that switching to a “deli style” system, where products are able to be seen and smelled prior to purchase would remove the incentive of testing at ridiculously high THC levels. 

Others, like Jennawae Cavion of Calyx and Trichomes in Kingston, had a simpler idea: “They should just put a range on the label,” she says. “Or, even a disclaimer: ‘Flower in bag may be lower than advertised THC.’”

Some believe independent testing at the federal, or even provincial, wholesale level for incoming products should be the norm, with punishments for being outside of the allowance. The OCS has contracted Sigma Analytical for independent analysis of cannabis products, but the extent to which they have tested products remains unclear.

Health Canada said in a statement that of 919 samples they collected since October 2018, when recreational cannabis was legalized, only 68 were tested and “found to be in contravention of the requirements set out in the cannabis act or its regulations.” These 68 could be in contravention for any reason, including failing microbial or pesticide analysis, and do not refer specifically to THC level contravention.

What can be done?

What will happen next remains unclear. Hopefully, it involves more transparency in all aspects of the industry, lest the problem of inflated THC will continue until the balloon eventually pops.

In my perfect world, we would have a hybrid deli-style system alongside the present prepackaged system for those who want it. There’s something to be said for seeing and smelling a product before you purchase it. It would be a long road to get there with regard to regulation changes, but we can do it. 

Deli style shops and budtenders who actually tend to your bud is how brick-and-mortar stores started pre-legalization, and, hopefully what we’ll return to. I’d trust my eyes and nose over a number on a bag any day, especially if it doesn’t match what’s actually inside that bag.

~Cass Whichelo

Cass is a cannabis enthusiast and former budtender who resides in Toronto, Ontario. They fight for radical transparency in the cannabis industry and beyond. They can be found on Twitter @terp_kaczynski


The Good Weed Board, part three

SHOWCASING CANADA’S BEST DRIED FLOWER PRODUCTS 

Welcome to the Good Weed Board on StratCann – part three! In Part One I touched on the origin story of the OG Rating Guide and explained why the grading system was developed. In Part Two, I ranked the most important quality metrics for grading cannabis and described how these metrics influence the OG Rating Guide.

Here in part three, I showcase four more products from the Good Weed Board. I also speculate about why good weed is so hard to find in the regulated market. 

Before diving in I want to make an announcement. The OG Rating Guide does not engage in pay-to-play. These are genuine ratings from a guy who loves good weed. I encourage producers to offer free samples, but the Good Weed Board is not for sale. My honest assessment of products will never be swayed.

I also want to give some advice. Don’t believe everything you see posted on Reddit. In my quest for good weed, I’ve graded an abundance of mediocre products: so many examples of hyped flower that was truly overrated. In my estimation, more than 90 percent of the products promoted on social media are of ordinary quality at best.

To put this into perspective, only twelve products have qualified for the Good Weed Board. If the bar was lowered to 70, the standings would be chock full. 

Why are there so many unremarkable products for sale on the regulated market? One reason is the 3.5-gram category, the dominant category for dried flower in every province across the country. The issue with 3.5-gram products is that the flower is almost always over-dry by the time it reaches the end consumer. 

The 3.5-gram category makes sense in a deli-style consumer market, where cured flower is stored in bulk until an order is placed, and is then consumed within a few days of purchase. The 3.5-gram category does not make sense in a wholesale distributor market, where flower is pre-packaged and stored for several weeks before consumption.

One way to increase the average quality of dried flower on the regulated market is more bulk offerings. Craft producers should have more 28-gram products available for sale. In a pre-packaged market, 28-grams of adequately cured flower is more likely to keep fresh until it reaches the end consumer. 

But there is a catch. The only way more 28-gram packages can become a reality is if regulators agree to adjust excise tax policy to account for the discounted price of a bulk sale. In my opinion, the excise tax policy should become the lesser of $1 or 10% per gram, not the greater as currently structured. It is not feasible for craft producers to pay $28 of excise tax on a product that should retail for around $150. 

Another way to increase the average quality of dried flower on the regulated market is direct distribution. Direct distribution would allow producers to ship directly to retailers and avoid the wholesaler warehouse. Not only would this encourage more local trade in the industry, it could also reduce the time of delay from when a batch is ready for sale until it reaches the final destination.

Now let’s look at the part three ratings. 

The first entry is Grape Cake by Joi Botanicals. Grape Cake is the third product by Joi Botanicals to qualify for the Good Weed Board. I purchased a 3.5-gram offering from Lake City Cannabis in Lincoln Park.

The buds are packaged inside a heavy glass jar. Their profile is layered with sweet fruit and cream, comparable with another Joi Botanicals offering, Purple Punch Mints #11. The Grape Cake buds are bigger and denser with less uniformity. They are also frostier than the Purple Punch Mints #11 with deep purple hues and an abundance of long orange pistils. I am pleased to report that the burn was supreme: tasty, potent, smooth, and even. OG Rating = 81/100. 

The second entry for Part Three is Animal Face by Carmel Cannabis. Carmel is a craft cultivator based out of Oro Medonte, Ontario, specializing in small-scale cultivation and unique genetics. 

I love Carmel’s packaging. The best part is the back label. They include information about the cultivar, breeder, lineage, aroma, flavour, and appearance. They advertise that the buds are hand-trimmed, hang-dried, hand-packaged, grown in small batches, and never irradiated. Carmel also gives credit to other growers if the product was sourced, not grown in-house. 

The Animal Face buds are light green and frosty with lots of orange hairs—usually a good sign. The OG Kush influence is clearly visible. The flower has a dominant profile of pine mixed with lemon and cake. Pockets of diesel are released near the stem. Once again the burn is supreme. OG Rating = 84/100. 

The third entry is Drew’s Pheno, also by Carmel Cannabis. I purchased both Carmel offerings from one of my favourite stores, the unfortunately now defunct Peak Cannabis. Drew’s Pheno features a rotation of limited drops grown by Carmel’s partner craft growers. The batch I sampled was Hippie Headbanger, grown by Magi Cannabis on Salt Spring Island in BC. 

There are predominant Sour Diesel traits in this Hippie Headbanger. The flower has a pungent sour lime fragrance with notes of gas under the surface. Just like the Animal Face, this batch was dried and cured exceptionally well. OG Rating = 80/100.

Last but not least for part three is Banana Cake by Crystal Cure. Crystal Cure is a licensed producer of hand-crafted small-batch cannabis farmed in certified organic living soil in Shediac Cape, New Brunswick. 

Crystal Cure also has one of the best packages in the game. Their back label provides information about the growing method, breeder, and parent genetics. The label also advertises the flower as non-irradiated and provides both a harvest & package date. 

The batch of Banana Cake I sampled was cultivated by one of Crystal Cure’s partners, Golden Peak Cannabis in Moncton, NB.

Although over-dry, the buds are still sticky and coated in trichomes. There is a dominant Cake profile with grape and pineapple fragrances on the outside and banana mixed with cheese on the inside. One whiff reminded me of Banana Starburst. The next puff tasted like soda pop with a chocolate aftertaste. This is flavourful smoke that provides a potent hit and reaches deep inside the chest. OG Rating = 80/100. 

That’s all for part three. I hope you enjoyed reading about these products as much as I enjoyed smoking them. My next column will showcase more products from the Good Weed Board. Stay tuned to find out if any of them break the current record score of 86. Happy blazing!


Marty Wig is the cofounder of Overgrown Gardens, and creator of the OG Rating Guide. He has been grading cannabis since 2003.

Peace Naturals recalls Spinach GMO Cookies pre-rolls from Ontario, Alberta due to inaccurate labels

Peace Naturals Project Inc. has recalled two lots of Spinach GMO Cookies pre-rolls sold in Ontario and Alberta. 

The recall is because the products were labelled with incorrect cannabinoid values, listing the wrong amounts of THC and CBD in the pre-rolls. 

Two separate lots were sold, one with 420 units of product from lot 008397, distributed to Ontario, and the other with 1104 units of product from lot 008406, distributed to Alberta. 

The packages contained ten .35-gram pre-rolls. 

  • The products sold in Ontario were labelled as having 0 mg/g THC (Total THC 260 mg/g) and 0 mg/g CBD (Total CBD: 0 mg/g). They should have shown 26 mg/g THC (Total THC: 228 mg/g) and 0 mg/g CBD (Total CBD: 1 mg/g).
  • The products sold in Alberta were labelled as having 29 mg/g THC (Total THC: 268 mg/g) and 1 mg/g CBD (Total CBD: 1 mg/g). They should have shown 29 mg/g THC (Total THC: 268 mg/g) and 0 mg/g CBD (Total CBD: 1 mg/g).

As of February 8, Peace Naturals Project Inc. had received only one complaint related to incorrect cannabinoid values on the product label. Health Canada has not, as of yet, received any complaints related to the recalled products. Neither Health Canada nor Peace Naturals Project Inc. has received any adverse reaction reports for the recalled cannabis product lot.

Health Canada reminds consumers who wish to return an affected product to 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.

Peace Naturals faced another recent product recall for inaccurately labelled pre-rolls, this time with the wrong amount of CBG listed.

Inaccurate labelling is one of the most common reasons for cannabis products being recalled in Canada.

Weed Me Inc. recalls one lot of Diamond District Sativa Pre-Rolls Cannabis Extract

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.

Image via Health Canada

Changes to cannabis regs increase beverage possession limit, streamline product testing

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.

Other regulatory changes are also still in the works. In 2021, Health Canada proposed restrictions around flavouring in cannabis extracts and vape pens, which they say they expected to come into force “no earlier than 2022.” A representative for Health Canada told StratCann via email that the regulator does not have an update on the timing at this time.

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.

Health Canada also notes that while there is no federal limit on the amount of cannabis that can be purchased or sold at a retail location, some provinces and territories have set purchase limits in their jurisdictions.

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.

Edibles, extracts, and infused pre-rolls help increased sales in BC

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%.

Image via LDB

Direct Delivery

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.


-All images via LDB

How edible extracts are getting around the 10mg limit

The Cannabis Act attempted to take decades of global cannabis innovation and distil it into a few manageable categories that ensure Canadians remain safe and people roughly know what they are buying.

After a year of the Act in play, regulators felt confident enough to bring edibles and beverages into the fray, ‘Cannabis 2.0.’ The delay wasn’t unfounded: cannabis edibles are a tricky beast to tame, primarily because they’re so difficult to define.

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.

“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.”

Ilya Serebryany, Founder and CEO of Loosh Brands

Non-food innovation in cannabis non-edibles

The legacy market had primed consumers for larger-dosed edibles (even if those doses didn’t live up to the label), and lobbying groups like the Cannabis Council of Canada have made the reconsideration of potency limits on edibles a core mandate of their efforts to reform the industry to tackle illicit trade.

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.”

Organigram’s Edison Jolts, ten 10mg THC lozenges

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.”

The edible extract “Loophole”?

Ironically, few things define the current state of the edible selection in Canada more clearly than a pervasive ingredient: sugar. It also happens to be one of the few additives that explicitly aren’t allowed in cannabis extracts:

101.3 (1) A cannabis extract…must not contain any ingredients other than
(a) carrier substances;
(b) flavouring agents; and
(c) substances that are necessary to maintain the quality or stability of the cannabis product.
(2) The following substances must not be used as ingredients to produce a cannabis extract referred to in subsection (1):
(b) sugars or sweeteners or sweetening agents, as those terms are defined in subsection B.01.001(1) of the Food and Drug Regulations.

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 implications

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.

“The customer loves it. They are completely aware of the 10mg limit, so when they see 250mg they’ll buy it with a smile and no hesitation.”

Jen, a keyholder at an independent retail chain in Ontario

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.

More testing needed to address heavy metals in vapes, say researchers

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.

What are you inhaling? Understanding analytical testing for cannabis vape pens

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.

In the past, the OPP along with the National Research Council have provided testing information on illicit vape products high levels of unapproved pesticides and inaccurate THC listings

British Columbia and New Brunswick have released similar results from illicit products seized in those provinces.

Health Canada is expected to announce restrictions on some flavourings for cannabis vape pens soon. The proposed amendments were expected to be registered in 2022.

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.


Crafting the perfect infused pre roll

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 get a little more scientific about how you are approaching mixing your ingredients together to come up with your formulation.

John Prentice, Pinnrz

“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.”

“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.” 

Tairence Rutter, ANC Cannabis

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.”

Various pre rolls at a cannabis store in BC

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.” 

“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.”

Scott Walters, BIG Concentrates

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. 

Infused pre roll blunt from RAD

Police walk back claim of “suspected edibles” in Halloween candy in Ontario

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.

Image
The now-deleted tweet

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