From Vancouver to New Westminster and Toronto, shops across Canada are selling products with CBD, unaware of its tricky legality. Bottled CBD liquids, oil-infused teas, and barbershop serums are all currently being sold without the proper certifications. As enforcement continues to remain lax, many shop owners and customers alike simply don't know the rules.
CBD, the shorthand for cannabidiol, is a compound derived from hemp or marijuana that's gained immense popularity for its health and wellness benefits over the past few years. From vape pen cartridges to homeopathic drops and tinctures, it's being hailed as a miracle drug that can aid a wide range of ailments, including anxiety, insomnia and joint pain.
The only problem: CBD remains strictly regulated in Canada, and the Oct 17th legalization of marijuana had no bearing over this. It can only be made by licensed producers, and it can only be sold by registered retailers. But a majority of buyers - and even sellers - believe it's legal because unlike THC, CBD doesn't cause intoxication.
CBD is generally extracted from the flowers and leaves of hemp and marijuana plants, both of which are classified as cannabis. This sets it apart from the hemp oil stocked in grocery stores, which comes from seeds and carries negligible quantities of CBD. But many natural health and beverage products that contain even trace amounts of CBD are made from other parts of the plant, and likely fall outside of Canada's federal drug laws.
People who consume these unregulated CBD products have no quality assurance, and no idea how much (if any) of the compound is actually present. Quality and consistency aren't always perfect in regulated products either, but they're a much safer bet. Certain strains of cannabis, oils, and gel capsules that are high in CBD content and sold by licensed producers can easily be bought from legal cannabis websites and stores all over Canada.
But it's this ubiquity that's causing consumers to believe that CBD products can be purchased outside of Health Canada's regulated recreational and medical marijuana systems. And shopkeepers themselves are confused - many are seeking clarification on the products that they're legally allowed to offer.
For now, it seems discretionary. Zach Berman, co-owner of the Juice Truck, a local chain of food and smoothie trucks, had been selling a certain brand of tea but since the legalization of cannabis, is questioning whether or not to stock it. At Pet Valu in Toronto, CBD tinctures were being sold and marketed as a versatile wellness product that could help cats and dogs overcome anxiety and mobility problems.
Pet Valu pulled the product from its shelves after being notified by The Globe and Mail of its likely illegal status, and its parent company, Pet Retail Brands, let franchisees know that continuing to sell the product could lead to prosecution. Big Country Raw, the manufacturer, has since stopped manufacturing and selling it.
While there's no doubt that a lack of education is central to this issue, another major factor is the current lack of enforcement by both police and Health Canada. Without government intervention, people will likely continue to question, or remain ignorant, of what's legal and what's not.