Canada Approves Cannabis Oil Production—With Restrictions

Health Canada recently announced an exemption to current cannabis regulations to allow Canadian licensed producers to make oils for medical marijuana patients. While industry members agree the action is a move in the right direction, some advocates have said the new rule is not without flaws.

Health Canada’s Section 56 Class Exemption for Licensed Producers, an exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, is a result of a recent Supreme Court decision regarding cannabis preparations and derivatives; the exemption allows for licensed producers to produce and sell cannabis oil and fresh marijuana buds and leaves in addition to dried marijuana, within certain restrictions. The exemption falls under Health Canada’s Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations, which establish controls over the production and sale of cannabis.

CanniMed Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based Prairie Plant Systems Inc., has already dedicated resources to researching and developing cannabis oils, Brent Zettl, president and CEO of Prairie Plant Systems and CanniMed, told MJINews. Zettl added that the company has the operating procedures and facilities needed to comply with this next phase in its corporate business model.

CanniMed is a licensed producer under Canada’s Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations, and its pharmaceutical-grade marijuana is produced under Good Manufacturing Practices regulations, Canada’s pharmaceutical manufacturing criteria. “Patients using the high [cannabidiol] CBD strains have all been asking for oils,” Zettl said, noting that smoking or vaporizing isn’t an option for patients with certain ailments. “This is going to greatly expand our business and what we can offer patients.”

For those patients who previously purchased cannabis oils from the gray market, or illegal dispensaries, the new rule will ensure patients have access to products that are consistent and labeled accurately, Zettl said.

But some advocates argue the allowed percentages of tetrahydrocannabinol in the new rule will be too low for some patients. Health Canada’s new ruleset does not enforce a limit on the potency of cannabidiol, but it mandates that cannabis oil cannot exceed a maximum potency of 30 mg of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol per milliliter of oil.

“While this is good news for patients looking for high-CBD medicine, it does not address the concerns of patients who need high-potency THC medicine. For example, patients looking to ingest cannabis using a vape pen as an alternative to burning the plant will be blocked by these rules.” said Sam Znaimer, founder and CEO of Locarno Capital, a venture capital fund dedicated to investing in legal cannabis companies. Znaimer is based in Vancouver.

In addition, the new ruling limits the derivative forms to oil, gel caps and few others. Edibles are not allowed. “The Canadian Supreme Court ruled that patients could validly possess and use cannabis derivatives and edibles, so it was up to Health Canada to establish a system where patients can purchase those products from licensed producers,” Znaimer said. “Health Canada has disappointed patients hoping for relief and has done their best to minimize the ruling of the Supreme Court.”

Ultimately, more research needs to be done to understand the impact of different dosing ratios on patients, Zettl explained. As more variations of cannabis for medical consumption become legalized, such as oil, more research will become available on the pain-relieving characteristics of cannabis.

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