Edibles, Extracts and Topicals, Oh my!

October 18, 2019 | Eugenia (Evie) Bouras

As of October 17, 2019, the Cannabis Act governs the sale and production of three new classes of cannabis:

  1. Edible cannabis: food/beverage-like cannabis products.
  2. Cannabis extracts: cannabis products produced by extraction methods.
  3. Cannabis topicals: cannabis products applied to the body’s external surfaces (hair, skin and nails).

These new cannabis classes come with several restrictions, prohibitions and conditions. The following are some of the key regulatory requirements to keep in mind:

Important dates: The new cannabis categories became a part of the Cannabis Act legislation on October 17, 2019. However, Health Canada requires a 60-day notice before the sale of any new cannabis product. As such, these classes of cannabis will not hit the Canadian market until, at the earliest, the middle of December 2019.

Licence: A federal processing licence is required to produce, package and label edible cannabis, cannabis extracts and topicals. To sell products within the new classes, individual processors must apply to Health Canada to amend their licence.

Production practices: To mitigate against possible cannabis contamination in the Canadian food supply, product mix-ups and mislabeling, cannabis and foods cannot be produced, packaged, labelled or stored on the same site. In other words, a licence holder who chooses to process cannabis and food products needs two different buildings: one for the cannabis and another for the food.

Prohibited representations: Although some of these products are meant to be ingested like a food or applied like a cosmetic, they cannot be packaged or labelled as such. Health Canada imposes several prohibited representations, such as: no health, dietary or cosmetic benefits; no association with alcohol, tobacco or vaping products or brands; and no nutrient or energy claims. These representations are equally not permitted in promotions.

Ingredients: Certain ingredients in edibles are forbidden in order to minimize human health risks, including: caffeine as a food additive (limits apply to naturally occurring caffeine); vitamin and mineral fortification; and combining cannabis with raw meat, fish and poultry. Further, all edible cannabis must be shelf-stable and not require any refrigeration or freezing.

THC content: In keeping with health risk mitigation, Health Canada has set the following THC limits: edibles can contain 10 mg THC per package; extracts, 10 mg per capsule / 1000 mg per package; and topicals, 1000 mg per package.

It is important to consult the cannabis regulations for additional restrictions and Health Canada requirements, including those in relation to packaging and labelling, formulation, testing, production practices and licensing. The industry must consider all aspects of cannabis and its complex regulatory framework. If you have any questions on the sale, production, distribution and promotion of cannabis or its various forms in Canada, please contact Miller Thomson’s cannabis group.


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