Health Canada has provided an update for their proposed restrictions around flavouring in cannabis extracts and vape pens, expected to come into force no earlier than 2022.
The proposed changes were highlighted in a Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement (RIAS), posted June 18. These changes were expected by industry based on previous guidance from the government.
These 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” and would apply equally to inhaled cannabis extracts sold for both medical and non-medical purposes.
Although on the surface these changes appear quite strict, they are written in a way that still allows smells and flavours associated with cannabis to be used, either from cannabis-derived or non cannabis-derived sources, says one industry expert.
Tom UIanowski is the VP of Quality Assurance and Regulatory Affairs at Nextleaf Labs, a BC-based cannabis processor that produces extracts used in an array of cannabis products, including vape pens and other extracts. He is also a professional and chartered chemist in BC and Ontario, respectively, as well as an Articling Agrologist with the BCIA.
“At first glance, the proposed regulations—which aim to strictly limit the flavours that licensed cannabis processors are able to utilize for formulated inhalable extracts—seem rather bleak for the industry,” writes Ulanowski in an email to StratCann. “However, upon closer reflection, my biggest concerns are related to the lack of clarity, vagueness, and questionable enforceability of these proposed changes.”
The biggest issue, he says, is about how Health Canada could even enforce these proposed rules.
“Ultimately, it seems Health Canada is not proposing to ban non-cannabis derived natural (botanical) or synthetic flavouring agents such as terpenes,” he continues. “Rather, they seem to want to limit the use —or promotion—of flavouring agents that are not “typical to cannabis”. As a chemist that appreciates the molecular and aromatic diversity of the plant, I have a hard time seeing how the regulator will be able to enforce such a nebulous regulation.
“The scientific peer reviewed literature indicates that over 150 different terpenes have been identified to occur naturally in the cannabis plant. Further, advanced extraction and purification techniques can produce highly-purified, aromatic compounds from cannabis itself. It stands to reason that processors would continue to be able to use a wide assortment of cannabis and non-cannabis derived terpenes and other flavouring agents in any quantity/ratio they desire, as long as the quality of the flavouring agents could be assured and there was some scientific evidence to demonstrate that these same molecules are found in cannabis, presumably even at trace-levels.”
The government’s stated intention with these changes is to address concerns that flavoured vaping products are more appealing to young people and encourage consumption. The changes are intended to mirror similar restrictions in the nicotine space.