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Canadians might one day be legally able to purchase a cannabis-based health product to relieve a headache as easily as they can buy a bottle of vitamin "B" today.

Health Canada published a consultation paper Wednesday seeking input “on the potential market for cannabis health products (CHPs) that would not require practitioner oversight.” The federal regulator is asking members of the public as well as the cannabis industry to answer questions about potential cannabis health products until Sept. 3.

After that, Health Canada “intends to gather external scientific advice regarding the appropriate evidence standards for CHPs, before advancing draft regulations for consultation.” Health Canada spokesperson André Gagnon told Cannabis Professional late Wednesday that consultation period runs for 75 days, also ending on September 3.

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“The results of this preliminary consultation will help Health Canada to better understand the potential market for these products, and inform the development of a potential regulatory framework,” Mr. Gagnon said. “Health Canada is committed to providing future opportunities to consult as the development of a proposed regulatory framework continues.”

Being able to Include cannabis as an ingredient in natural health products – particularly the non-intoxicating cannabinoid cannabidiol or CBD – has been a key policy objective for the cannabis industry. Instead of being subject to the marketing and packaging restrictions of the Cannabis Act, such products “would be subject to the evidence-based approach of the Food and Drugs Act while respecting objectives of the Cannabis Act the consultation paper explains.

“Health Canada is aware that some Canadians are interested in potential therapeutic uses of cannabis for minor ailments for human use (e.g., sleeplessness, pain relief for sore muscles) and for animals (e.g., pain relief). Cannabis products with unauthorized health claims are also emerging on the market illegally such as cannabidiol (CBD) products claiming to provide relief from muscle aches, joint pain, and inflammation.”

“Any new pathway to market for [cannabis health products” must safeguard the strict controls put in place under the CA to protect youth, displace the illegal market and restrict promotion of cannabis. This new pathway must also leverage Health Canada’s established evidence-based system for controlling access to safe, effective and quality products that make health claims alleging to maintain and improve Canadians’ health."

Products regulated under Canada’s Food and Drugs Act have much wider latitude to advertise health claims for minor ailments such as insomnia or inflammation than under the Cannabis Act. They can also be sold to youth provided there is “oversight by a responsible adult intermediary” such as a parent or guardian, the document said.

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