Amending the Cannabis Regulations (Flavours in Cannabis Extracts)


On June 19, 2021, Health Canada announced via a Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement (RIAS) their plan to amend the Cannabis Regulations, specifically focused on proposed restrictions around flavouring in cannabis extracts and vape pens. The proposed changes would be expected to come into force no earlier than 2022 and would restrict the production, sale, promotion, packaging, or labelling of inhaled cannabis extracts from having a flavour, other than the flavour of cannabis. The proposed amendments would apply to all inhaled cannabis extracts (e.g. cannabis vaping products, hash, shatter) to avoid incentivizing licensed processors to create subsets of flavoured inhaled cannabis products and to deter consumer motivation to substitute cannabis vaping products with other highly concentrated forms of flavoured inhaled cannabis extracts (e.g. shatter, hashish, kief, budder).

Wondering where these changes are coming from? It has come to the government’s attention that there has been a rapid rise in youth vaping in Canada. This trend applies to nicotine products, non-nicotine vaping products, cannabis vaping products and other inhaled cannabis extracts. Despite the current product composition restrictions that are currently in place for cannabis products, including extracts, Health Canada has found that the availability of flavours is one of the key factors that is contributing to the increase in vaping among youth. These products tend to have a high THC content as well, which can present public health risks and harms associated with frequent and long-term use.

Currently, inhaled cannabis extracts are only permitted to contain cannabis, carrier substances, flavouring agents, and substances necessary to maintain the quality or stability of the product. The carrier substances and substances necessary to maintain the quality or stability of the product must comply with a standard set out in one of the publications referred to in Schedule B to the Food and Drugs Act. The use of sugars, sweeteners, or sweetening agents as ingredients is not permitted, as well as nicotine, caffeine or ethyl alcohol.

Only flavouring agents that are identical to substances produced by, or found in, cannabis would be permitted. This could include substances derived from other plant sources or that are synthetically produced. Consistent with the current Regulations, licensed processors could continue using substances — such as terpenes, aldehydes and ketones — derived from cannabis to produce inhaled cannabis extracts. Health Canada intends to continue to allow certain flavour descriptors and strain names such as “pink kush,” or flavour notes such as “piney,” “diesel” or “skunk.” Factual statements about the terpene content of inhaled cannabis extracts would also be permitted.

The way the current framework under the Cannabis Act and its regulations is set up, there is no distinction between cannabis products for medical or non-medical use. Therefore, the same rules apply to all products (medical and non-medical). Sale for medical purposes licence holders and provincially/territorially authorized distributors and retailers of recreational cannabis would be allowed to continue selling flavoured inhaled cannabis extracts that are packaged/labelled under the current Regulations until their inventory is depleted, allowing for the sale of any stock that was purchased prior to the amendments coming into force.

More information can be found on Health Canada’s website.

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