Canadian health experts have concluded that CBD products are safe enough to be sold in any retail store, without requiring a doctor’s prescription.
The decision may seem somewhat odd at first, since CBD products are already easily available anywhere in Canada. Cannabis is fully legal in the Great White North, but CBD is still classified as a controlled substance. Under the country's current laws, CBD products can only legally be sold in licensed cannabis dispensaries. CBD drinks and other infused products commonly sold at local pharmacies, grocery stores, and other unlicensed shops are all technically still illegal.
Three years ago, Health Canada appointed the Science Advisory Committee on Health Products Containing Cannabis to research whether or not these restrictions are actually necessary. The nine-member panel was specifically asked to consider whether hemp-derived products are safe enough to be sold to the general public, or whether sales should remain restricted to adult-use dispensaries. Alternately, the panel was asked to consider whether CBD should only be available by prescription.
After years of poring through scientific research studies, “the committee unanimously agreed CBD is safe and tolerable for short-term use (a maximum of 30 days) at doses from 20 milligrams per day (mg/day) to a maximum dose of 200 mg/day through oral administration,” the committee’s final report notes. Researchers also determined that dogs could safely use low doses of CBD, but did not find enough evidence to conclude that it could safely be used by other animals.
The committee did discover that the existing body of research on the safety and efficacy of CBD has some critical information gaps, though. Members were unable to source conclusive data confirming that young adults, elderly people, or people with psychiatric conditions were safely able to use CBD regularly. Information regarding people with liver disease, pregnant or lactating mothers, or people with allergies to cannabis was also found to be lacking.
For these reasons, the panel “unanimously agreed it would not be appropriate to give any products containing CBD to individuals who are pregnant or breastfeeding, children, adolescents or youth under the age of majority without practitioner oversight. Therefore, the recommendations in this report should in no way be considered to apply to them.” The committee also recommended that CBD packaging should include warning labels advising people who fall into these groups not to use these products.
Health Canada is not required to take action on the committee's recommendations, and the agency has not set an official deadline to address them. Even so, advocates and industry stakeholders believe that government officials will use these recommendations as a springboard to draft regulations that will eventually allow CBD products to be sold in any Canadian store.
The US has its own confusing rules and regulations regarding CBD. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized low-THC hemp flower along with tinctures, oils, and extracts containing hemp-derived cannabinoids. The US FDA has not gotten around to issuing regulations on CBD-infused foods and drinks, however, so these products are still technically illegal (even though they are being sold literally everywhere). Without federal guidance, individual states have been left to draw up their own cannabis regulations, like usual.
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