Newfoundland ends cannabis vape ban but keeps flavor restriction

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Image of a vape pen and marijuana buds

The government of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador has reversed its late-2019 ban on sales of cannabis vape products while retaining a restriction on added non-cannabis flavors.

The decision to carry vape products followed a review of Newfoundland’s cannabis industry by the provincial government and the Newfoundland Labrador Liquor Corp. (NLC), the province’s adult-use cannabis regulator and wholesaler, according to its chief merchandising officer, Peter Murphy.

“Given the significant portion of the illicit market that vape represents, we believe this is a positive step in continuing to capture market share from illegal operators,” Murphy wrote in a statement to MJBizDaily.

“Note that in an effort to limit appeal to youth, flavored vapes will not be permitted (with exception of natural flavors and terpenes related to cannabis itself).”

The change opens a new, albeit limited, market for vapes: Newfoundland was the second-smallest cannabis market among Canada’s 10 provinces in September, with regulated recreational marijuana sales worth 5.7 million Canadian dollars ($4.2 million), or about 1.5% of Canadian cannabis sales.

Pierre Killeen, vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs with the Ontario-based Cannabis Council of Canada (C3) industry group, said Newfoundland’s government “should be applauded for its decision to provide legal, tested, controlled access to cannabis vaping products.”

“This is consistent with the public policy objectives of legalization, which include protecting public health and protecting public safety by eliminating the illicit market,” he added.

Commenting on Newfoundland’s restriction on added cannabis vape flavors, Killeen said:

“Time will tell about the public policy and the market implications of this decision. So let’s give it the benefit of the doubt and see how it plays out.”

In Canada, legal vapes and other cannabis-derived products such as edibles and concentrates started hitting the market at the end of 2019, after new regulations took effect.

The launch followed a serious public health crisis linked to cannabis vapes, mostly in the U.S. The situation captured the attention of Canadian authorities.

The provinces of Newfoundland and Quebec disallowed vape sales, and Alberta delayed its vape launch slightly.

Quebec’s government-owned recreational cannabis monopoly,  Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC), still does not sell vapes.

And authorities have placed extra restrictions on edibles and concentrates in the province, which is a much more valuable market than Newfoundland with September recreational cannabis sales worth CA$49.7 million.

The C3’s Killeen said Quebec could “benefit from the lessons learned from its other provincial and federal partners with respect to cannabis and vaping products, and the harm reduction objectives to be achieved by providing legal, controlled access to cannabis vaping products.”

Cannabis vapes quickly gained popularity among Canadian cannabis consumers to become the third-ranked cannabis product category – behind dried flower and pre-rolls – in markets tracked by Seattle-based cannabis analytics firm Headset.

Vapes have also gained significant ground in the U.S. in the wake of the vaping health crisis, with market share approaching 25%.

Solomon Israel can be reached at solomon.israel@mjbizdaily.com