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Restricting Cannabis Extract Flavours

Health Canada released its Forward Regulatory Plan 2023-2025 and it includes references to promoting amendments to the Cannabis Regulations relating to flavours in cannabis extracts. This builds on previous messaging from Health Canada on the subject back in 2021.

Proposed Amendments

Health Canada says it is proposing amendments to the Cannabis Regulations to ‘protect public health and safety, in particular by protecting young persons and others from inducements to use inhaled cannabis extracts.’

The 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. This would apply equally to inhaled cannabis extracts sold for medical and non-medical purposes. The proposed amendments align with changes to the regulations for tobacco and vaping products.

Amendments Rationale

The proposed changes were initially published in the Canada Gazette in June 2021. In the report, Health Canada noted the rapid rise in youth vaping in Canada, including cannabis vaping products and other inhaled cannabis extracts. Health Canada identified the availability of flavours, despite the current restrictions, as one of the factors that contributed to the increase in cannabis vaping among youth.

Inhaled cannabis extracts, such as cannabis vaping products, typically have high concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which can present public health risks and harms associated with frequent and long-term use.

Health Canada said the rationale behind these amendments is that restricting flavours in inhaled cannabis extracts is expected to make these products less appealing to youth, which would help address the rapid rise in youth vaping.

Impact on Industry

Besides the obvious impact of restricting flavours, Health Canada says the proposed amendments would generate incremental costs for affected stakeholders (i.e. licensed processors, federally licensed sellers of cannabis for medical purposes, and provincially and territorially authorized distributors and retailers) and for Health Canada.

Health Canada estimates the costs to be $397.19 million over 10 years. In addition to the costs that are monetized, the proposal would generate incremental costs to licensed processors associated with reformulating existing products and modifying promotional materials and product packaging and labelling, which cannot be quantified at this time due to lack of data.

Timeline

The Forward Regulatory Plan provides information on regulatory initiatives that Health Canada aims to propose or finalize in the next two years. No further details have been provided by Health Canada at this time.

New Data-Gathering Program on Cannabis

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

Beginning in 2023, the Regulatory Operations and Enforcement Branch Cannabis Laboratory will randomly purchase cannabis products from authorized retailers in Canada. The laboratory will also work with Canadian law enforcement agencies to receive illicit cannabis products for comparative analysis.

Parameters that the laboratory could assess include: THC/CBD levels, specific analytes of interest, and chemical or microbiological contaminants.

Health Canada says this program will allow it to proactively collect information on the legal and illicit cannabis markets in Canada. This will strengthen its ability to inform the public about health and safety risks associated with cannabis consumption.

Tags: Cannabis Act (40), cannabis extracts (20), Cannabis Regulations (101), cannabis testing (7), Health Canada (64), Health Canada regulations (12), restricting vape flavours (1), vaping (1)