Canada launches new cannabis consultations on beverages, labeling and research

Canada cannabis; beverages and labeling, Canada launches new cannabis consultations on beverages, labeling and research

A half-dozen producers were cited for regulatory violations in Health Canada’s compliance report for the 2018-19 fiscal year.

(This story has been corrected to note that any potential changes would be to possession equivalency limits, not public possession limits.)

Canada’s federal cannabis regulator is launching new consultations that signal future changes to marijuana possession equivalency limits, including higher possession caps for cannabis beverages.

The Health Canada consultation announced Friday could also pave the way for product labeling that displays more cannabinoid information as well as tweaks to the regulatory regime for small-scale cultivation, processing and nursery businesses.

Potential regulatory changes resulting from the consultation could help Canada’s cannabis industry by reducing purchasing limits of infused beverages and providing more mandatory labeling information for consumers.

The 30-day clock to submit feedback started Friday, Dec. 11, meaning any updated regulations could be in store for January at the earliest.

Beverage equivalency limits to be examined

The current equivalency rates for cannabis possession limits in Canada allow an individual to carry up to 30 grams of dried cannabis but only 2.1 liters (71 ounces) of cannabis-infused beverages.

That limit presents a regulatory obstacle to marijuana beverage manufacturers because it limits the volume of drinks a consumer can purchase at one time.

Earlier this year, Canopy Growth President and chief Product Officer Rade Kovacevic told Marijuana Business Daily that the company wanted the equivalency table changed.

“The issue is that the possession limits, as written with respect to beverages, incentivize consumers to veer toward high-THC, low-volume products,” said Alanna Sokic, a Toronto-based senior consultant with Global Public Affairs who has lobbied on behalf of cannabis beverage producers.

“If I go to the (Ontario Cannabis Store) website now, I can only order five 355-milliliter beverages at one time.”

In contrast, Sokic pointed out, equivalency limits for powdered marijuana drink mix-ins allow individuals to possess a great deal of THC.

“So there’s quite a discrepancy here, and I think it’s a public-health imperative,” she said.

Product labeling changes possible

Health Canada’s consultation could also lead to new labeling requirements for producers.

Labels must currently show THC and CBD content, but information on other cannabinoids and terpenes is optional.

The regulator is asking whether it should “require product labels to display information about other cannabinoids and terpenes (e.g., quantity or concentration)?”

Another question asks for “any other labeling information that would help consumers make decisions to support informed and responsible use?”

Sokic believes Health Canada might be interested in improving consumer education around cannabis products.

“Even just in the Twittersphere, we’re seeing a significant shift in focus from concentration of THC to terpenes and cannabinoids, and how those impact the overall consumer experience.”

However, Sokic noted that Canadian cannabis labels tend to be jam-packed with information already.

“We just have to be cognizant that there’s a lot of newer, novice consumers coming on the market who barely know, you know, what THC concentration really means, let alone cannabinoids and terpenes.”

Regulations for micro licenses, nurseries

Health Canada’s notice hinted at possible regulatory changes for micro-cultivators, micro-processors and nurseries – all license types meant for small-scale producers.

It asks whether the reduced regulatory requirements for those license types, such as lower security requirements, are “appropriate given their scale?”

The consultation also invites responses on whether any elements of Canada’s cannabis regulations “put micro-cultivation, micro-processing and nursery license holders at a competitive disadvantage compared to larger companies?”

Nontherapeutic research possibilities

The consultation will also explore new ways to “facilitate nontherapeutic research with cannabis involving human participants, and to facilitate testing activities with cannabis.”

Health Canada said researchers are already undertaking nontherapeutic marijuana studies, including research into onset time and duration, driving performance and more.

But clinical-trial requirements under Canada’s Food and Drugs Act mean those researchers are “facing challenges,” the regulator said.

Regulatory changes could include health and safety controls and expanded adverse reaction reporting, Health Canada’s notice suggested.

The notice also seeks feedback on allowing research and analytical testing license holders to produce their own cannabis test kits and produce and sell cannabis reference standards.

Another question asks cannabis companies to comment on the possibility of making permanent certain requirements that were relaxed and simplified in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Comments should be emailed to [email protected], with “Notice of intent – Consultation on the Cannabis Regulations: Cannabis research and other regulatory issues” in the subject line.

Solomon Israel can be reached at [email protected]