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Canada Takes First Step in Legalizing Cannabis Health Products

By Matt Maurer

On June 19, 2019, the Canadian government took its first step towards legalizing Cannabis Health Products.

While Canadians have been able to access medical cannabis for nearly 19 years, and have been able to legally purchase adult-use recreational cannabis since October 17, 2018, the sale of over-the-counter health products that include cannabis remains illegal, as all medical cannabis products currently need to be purchased with the oversight of a medical practitioner.

Consultation Launched

Health Canada is looking to change that and started the process this week by launching a consultation to “seek feedback from Canadians, as well as the cannabis and health products industries, regarding the kinds of products they would be interested in purchasing, manufacturing, or selling, should a legal pathway to market for CHPs be established.”

The government noted that Canadians are interested in potential therapeutic uses of cannabis for minor ailments for human use (e.g. sleeplessness, pain relief for sore muscles) and for animals (e.g., pain relief) and noted that these products are already prevalent in the unregulated market. In particular, the government identified unregulated CBD products which claim to provide relief from muscle aches, joint pain and inflammation.

Proposed Rules and Parameters Revealed

The consultation document sets out a variety of key parameters and broad strokes as to what the regulatory regime for CHPs may entail, including:

  • an evidence-based approach for CHPs to ensure that health claims are not used as a way to promote or normalize cannabis consumption;
  • restrictions on the types of health claims that would be permitted, along with strict scientific-evidence requirements to support the health claim;
  • a prohibition on general health claims;
  • a requirement that cannabis be listed as an active ingredient and a prohibition on including cannabis in the product without a direct link to the health claim made;
  • CHPs would be subject to a pre-market review for their safety, efficacy, and quality;
  • CHPs may include any cannabis ingredient or substances extracted from cannabis, as well as other medicinal and non-medicinal ingredients so long as “robust scientific evidence” could demonstrate that the interaction of the different substances would be safe and effective;
  • provinces and territories would have jurisdiction over where CHPs could be sold, which may include existing cannabis retail locations, pharmacies, veterinary clinics and pet stores;
  • CHPs could be sold online and by phone directly by federally licensed cannabis sellers with the product being shipped by mail or courier directly to the purchaser; and
  • CHPs would be available to young persons, but only through an adult intermediary, such as a parent or guardian, who could purchase and distribute CHPs to a young person.

Next Steps

The consultation will be conducted until September 3, 2019. Those interested in expressing their views can do so here.

Health Canada has indicated that also intends to gather external scientific advice regarding the appropriate evidence standards for CHPs before advancing draft regulations for consultation.

With any luck, we will see draft regulations pertaining to CHPs released by the Fall with products hitting the stores in 2020.

Keep checking back here at cannabis-law.ca for further updates as they unfold.

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