According to experts, the new recommendations published by Health Canada will take the country one step closer to authorizing the retail sale of cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD.
CBD is an active ingredient in cannabis often used for pain relief. It does not appear to be addictive and does not produce a high like tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Unlike the United States, Great Britain and Australia, Canada has only one legal framework to regulate these two components.
While CBD products are currently available with a doctor's prescription or from licensed cannabis stores, recommendations released Thursday by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Health Products Containing Cannabis, an external body, lay the groundwork. their introduction over the counter in pharmacies, or from other retailers such as health stores.
Le investigation report follows a consultation conducted in 2019 by Health Canada to gather input from cannabis users and the health product industries on the potential market for non-prescription health products containing cannabis.
According to experts, the committee's report signals Ottawa's commitment to study the use of CBD as a recognized pharmaceutical, and moves towards a legal framework that could allow users to obtain CBD products covered by their medical diet.
Robert Laprairie, professor of pharmacy at the University of Saskatchewan, said while he doesn't expect major changes in how CBD is dispensed in the next two or three years, it's almost sure that changes are afoot.
“The current market is really geared towards people who are not using it for non-medical purposes, but rather for recreational purposes,” Professor Laprairie said. “There is emerging evidence that it has health benefits beyond that.”
Self-medication among the public has increased dramatically since legalization, especially among seniors and other vulnerable populations, said Erin Prosk, president of Santé Cannabis, a medical cannabis clinic based in Westmount, Que.
She said she was encouraged by the report, which responds to repeated calls from cannabis patients and clinicians for greater recognition of the medical use of CBD.
While the move toward a possible future regulatory framework is possible, it comes with a risk: To date, there is insufficient data to support the widespread use of CBD, said James MacKillop, director of the Michael G. DeGroote Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at McMaster University.
“The reality is that research evidence only really supports CBD for a very small number of conditions. The possible risk is that the emergence of a new category of non-medical CBD-based health products could make it appear that there is more support than there actually is,” Professor MacKillop said.
Health Canada has set the bar very high for studies on CBD, which makes it difficult to produce evidence, Professor MacKillop said.
George Smitherman, president of the Cannabis Council of Canada, said the report was positive for Canadian cannabis companies. While licensed cannabis retailers may face greater competition for CBD sales in the future, greater recognition of its medical uses could provide further support to the market.
“This will create opportunities for cannabis retailers who have their own customer base to advance the sale of these products as well,” Mr. Smitherman said.
One such company is High Tide Inc, a cannabis retail chain, which has three CBD subsidiaries. In an email, High Tide CEO Raj Grover said he was encouraged by the steps taken to create a regulatory pathway “so that Canadians and their pets can have access to reputable CBD products that they can trust”.