Article by David Clement, Saltwire
The federal election is behind us, and all Canadians are probably pretty thankful for that.
That said, in what was arguably Canada’s most irritating, and cynical, election, no one spoke about Canada’s cannabis market. The opposition parties did not take aim at the Liberals for their mistakes, nor did the Liberals really use legalization as a talking point on their legislative success. Now that we have a minority government, it is important that this new government enacts change to make Canada’s cannabis market more open and consumer-friendly.
Much has been said regarding the issues with excise taxes, the federal government’s overly paternalistic marketing and packaging rules, and burdensome production regulations that have handcuffed producers. All of these missteps have hurt the attractiveness of the legal market, and that only benefits those who are selling cannabis illegally.
One mistake made in the Cannabis Act that hasn’t gotten any coverage is the federal government’s failure to differentiate appropriately between THC and CBD.
For those who don’t know, CBD (cannabidiol) is one of the over 100 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. On its own, it has a variety of medicinal and wellness uses. CBD can be used for pain in patients with disorders such as fibromyalgia and can be used to prevent seizures for people who suffer from neurological disorders such as epilepsy. It can also be used to treat common issues such as joint pain, inflammation, and act as a sleep aid. Most importantly, CBD is not an intoxicating substance like THC.
Because CBD products are not intoxicating, and have a significantly lower risk profile, they shouldn’t be treated the same as cannabis products with THC. All that would be required to right this wrong would be to remove non-intoxicating CBD products from the Cannabis Act altogether.
Quite simply, any CBD product with a THC concentration of less than 0.3 per cent (the U.S. legal standard) should be treated as a natural health product, and exempt from the rules and regulations of the Cannabis Act.
Removing CBD products from the Cannabis Act would have several immediate benefits for consumers. The first is that it would exempt CBD products from the overly heavy-handed marketing, branding and plain packaging restrictions set out in the Cannabis Act. Having cannabis regulated in the same way as tobacco was a huge mistake, given the differences in risks between products. Regulating cannabis like tobacco was a mistake, but treating CBD products like tobacco is downright comical.
Beyond the chance to peel back federal paternalism, the removal of CBD products from the Cannabis Act would allow for products to brand their desired impact, something that is currently, and irritatingly, illegal for all cannabis products. The current prohibitions are a huge disservice to consumers because they prevent them from being presented with more product information when making purchases. Public policy should encourage informed consumer decisions, not actively prevent them. Removing CBD from the Cannabis Act would allow for these products to free themselves from the silliness of the act’s marketing regulations, which will serve to empower consumers.
In addition to giving consumers more information through appropriate marketing and branding, removing CBD from the act would significantly increase consumer access. As it currently stands, non-intoxicating CBD products are only available via outlets that are licensed to sell cannabis.
This is problematic because for many consumers, the rollout of storefronts has been horrendous, with the government-run online alternatives taking days to deliver product. Removing CBD from the act would, overnight, allow for these products to be sold alongside other natural health products. It would also allow for products to become available in cities and towns that made the misguided decision to ban cannabis retail within their boundaries, as in Ontario. Increasing points of sale for CBD products would increase consumer access, which could help steer people away from the black market alternatives that currently exist.