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The Review of Canadian Cannabis Health Products Generates Over 1,100 Public Comments

By Alexander Beadle

Published: Feb 11, 2020   
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Canada’s federal health regulator, Health Canada, received over 1,100 responses from the public during its latest cannabis policy review, the agency has revealed.

The review, which sought to assess the potential market for cannabis-based health products that wouldn’t require physician oversight, returned strong industry interest from hemp and cannabis producers.

Health Canada has said that it will publish a summary of the comments received during the process, but that the exact submissions received will not be made publicly available in order to “respect the privacy of participants in the consultation.”

Cannabis health products in Canada

At the time of the creation of the Cannabis Act, the piece of Canadian legislation that formally legalized cannabis, Health Canada conducted a first public consultation on cannabis products. From that consultation, it was eventually concluded that the government would commit to maintaining access to medical cannabis products on prescription, with the possibility being left open for a future consultation on non-prescription cannabis health products.

The latest consultation, which ran from June 19, 2019 until September 3, 2019, was exactly that.

The proposed new rules, set out by Health Canada, would introduce a new legal product category for cannabis products in Canada. These ‘cannabis health products’ (CHPs) could then be legally sold, subject to approval by local provinces and territories, in pharmacies without the need for prescription, and potentially also in veterinary clinics and pet stores where relevant.

The proposed rule change wouldn’t allow CHPs to make general health claims about their effectiveness. However, more specific claims that can be backed up with scientific evidence would be permitted. Like the laws in place for other cannabis products, CHP packaging would have to follow the same restrictions regarding being “unattractive to youth,” and would have to list cannabis as an active ingredient.

Next steps following the consultation

Health Canada told Marijuana Business Daily that it received 1,104 responses during the consultation via an online questionnaire, with a further 60 submissions being made via email.

“The results of this preliminary consultation will help Health Canada to better understand the potential market for these products and to inform the development of a potential regulatory pathway,” said agency spokesperson Tammy Jarbeau to Marijuana Business Daily.

It’s understood that once Health Canada publishes the summary of responses received in the consultation, it will establish an external scientific advisory committee to investigate the topic. Specifically, the committee will be tasked with seeking advice on the amounts of scientific evidence that should be deemed necessary to prove the safety and efficacy of the CHPs.

“Following the publication of the summary report and the establishment of the advisory committee, the department will analyze available findings to determine a path forward,” Jarbeau added.

The path forward for CHPs

In a document published alongside the CHP consultation, Health Canada acknowledged that many Canadians are interested in the use of cannabis as a treatment for minor ailments, and that cannabis products that make unauthorized health claims are already available on the illicit market.

“Cannabis products with unauthorized health claims are also emerging on the market illegally such as cannabidiol (CBD) products claiming to provide relief from muscle aches, joint pain, and inflammation,” the document reads.

“Any new pathway to market for CHPs must safeguard the strict controls put in place under the CA [Cannabis Act] to protect youth, displace the illegal market and restrict promotion of cannabis.”

Unfortunately for Canadians interested in these products, industry experts believe that the introduction of CHPs may be a long, multi-year process for Canada.

“I don’t see any way that we couldn’t be looking at a multiyear horizon for these products,” commented Trina Fraser, a business lawyer at Brazeau Seller Law, to Marijuana Business Daily.

“We have to create a more sensible way to make, distribute and sell CBD products in this country. They lumped them together in this big umbrella category of cannabis for the purposes of legalization. Now we’re beyond that. It’s time to finesse the system.”

Alexander Beadle

Science Writer

Alexander Beadle has been working as a freelance science writer since 2017 and has covered the cannabis industry for Analytical Cannabis since 2018. He has also written for our sister publication, Technology Networks, and the cannabis industry consultant firm Prohibition Partners, among others. Alexander holds a Master's in Materials Chemistry from the University of St. Andrews, where he won a Chemistry Purdie scholarship, and conducted research into zeolite crystal growth mechanisms and the action of single-molecule transistors.


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