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  1. Vaping concentrate ingredient awareness is seen opening opportunities in Canada’s legal market
  2. Health Canada regulations prohibit sweeteners and vitamins in vape products
  3. Concern is raised about potential backlog of new vape products due to U.S. illnesses

Legal cannabis growers in Canada will soon launch vaporizer products – expected to boost legal pot sales and demand, and attract new consumers – amid a flurry of lung illness reports from illicit concentrates in the United States.

This could potentially drive new customers to the legal market and has opened the door for at least one licensed producer (LP) to highlight its natural ingredients to consumers who could now start asking more questions about what they are about to vape.

“I think this is a great way to open up this conversation,” said Alison Gordon, co-CEO of 48North.

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“This is a positive thing because we are very much focused on as-natural-as-possible products.”

On Monday, the American Medical Association urged people in the United States to avoid using e-cigarettes until health officials there can further investigate the cause of lung illnesses. At least five people in the U.S. have died from a lung illness believed to be due to vaping while the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention probes 450 lung illness cases, likely due to chemical exposure.

Last week, Health Canada issued a warning, though there have not been any reported cases here.

“This is going to speed up consumer education with regards to why choose a better quality product. I think it will also drive people toward the legal market as well,” Ms. Gordon said.

Cannabis oil and dried flower have been legal for adult use in Canada since October 2018, and products such as edibles and concentrates for vaporizers will be permitted starting next month, when new items can be sent to Health Canada for approval. These items are expected to be on licensed store shelves in December, at the earliest.

“The recent media reports of health complications associated with vaping in the U.S. are concerning,” said Heather MacGregor, director of communications for Aurora Cannabis Inc.

Edmonton-based Aurora already sells one vape product that “does not contain any flavourings or dilutive additives” to the Canadian medical market, and test results are provided to patients prior to purchase, Ms. MacGregor said.

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Aurora, which is one of Canada’s biggest LPs, intends to launch a portfolio of vape products and is working with Health Canada to meet all regulatory requirements, she said.

While the majority of Canada’s cannabis is still sold on the black market, Health Canada’s regulations prohibit the use of ingredients such as sweeteners, vitamins and colouring agents in legal concentrates.

But still, this is not common knowledge for consumers, many of whom have been reading about the vape-related illnesses and deaths in the United States.

“Because it’s a new industry, they really need to help consumers make a distinction of tested product,” said Kenneth Evans, managing partner and co-owner of APEX Public Relations in Toronto.

At the same time, strict marketing regulations make this difficult, Mr. Evans said, adding that the burgeoning industry has been more focused on removing the stigma associated with cannabis use rather than differentiating its safety standards from the lack of testing on the black market.

“LPs in Canada probably should be more proactive and shouldn’t wait too long to get out the message. It’s critical to the young, growing industry,” Mr. Evans said.

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Greg McLeish, research analyst for Mackie Research Capital Corp., questions whether the vape-related illnesses will cause a backlog in Health Canada’s 60-day product approval process, but said that long-term, the ability to buy these new products on the legal market later this year will make consumers feel safer about what they buy versus illegal concentrates. This will benefit the market in the long term.

“If you’re a new consumer, you’d be concerned. The issue really is in the counterfeit side and because it’s in the counterfeit side, you don’t know exactly what’s in it,” Mr. McLeish said.

If you educate the consumer that vaping is safe, but you do need to watch that you’re buying it from a legal source, that gives people a little more confidence that what you’re buying is a safer product,”

Moncton, N.B.-based Organigram Inc. is one of four Canadian companies to partner with Pax Labs Inc., an established U.S. company that designs vaporization technology for cannabis.

“We’re incredibly aware and sensitive of the reports and the news coming out of those illicit market products,” said Organigram spokesman Ray Gracewood, adding that the LP vetted suppliers and their materials early on to ensure safety.

While it will be important for the company to create education around vapes, “it would be premature to be out with consumer messaging around a product type that isn’t yet confirmed by health Canada,” Mr. Gracewood said.

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