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HIGHLIGHTS
  1. Hemp Alliance, CHFA advocate for CBD to be a health product
  2. U.S. Farm Bill could help efforts for CBD re-regulation in Canada
  3. Canada seen losing “first mover status” in CBD products

The CBD industry is poised to surge as the United States legalizes the hemp-derived cannabinoid, but Canadian manufacturers and health food stores could miss out on the boom due to strict regulations here.

U.S. President Donald Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill on Thursday, making hemp-derived CBD – an increasingly popular cannabinoid that has no psychoactive effects and is credited with health benefits – legal in Canada’s biggest trading partner.

But while this is expected to federally permit the sale of CBD products ranging from health supplements to snacks to drinks in U.S. outlets such as health food stores, and in turn provide Canadian hemp farmers with a new source of demand, only businesses licensed in accordance to the Cannabis Act are permitted to sell CBD in Canada. This means Canadian retailers will not only miss out on this growing industry but manufacturers will also be at a disadvantage if CBD products are eventually classified as food, since large U.S. brands could by then be well-established and positioned to dominate market share in Canada.

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So in January, the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance (CHTA) will lobby the government to classify low-intake CBD items as natural health products rather than a cannabis drug, which would ultimately permit production by food and health supplement manufacturers and sales at unlicensed venues like health food stores, said Ted Haney, CHTA executive director.

“We will seek to have CBD registered as a natural health product, which will see it move into the supplement world, and to be sold at open retail,” Mr. Haney said.

“We have already missed out on first-mover status in the growing CBD market in the United States, in those states that have allowed open retail sale of CBD.”

Many here have been counting on establishing cannabis-related business footholds due to the country’s so-called “first mover status,” as Canada is the first G7 country to legalize cannabis.

“Our concern is that with the Farm Bill passing, there will be more hemp produced in the United States for the purpose of extracting CBD,” Mr. Haney said.

“There will be more brands … operating under less costly, regulatory environments than in Canada.”

On the bright side, however, the 2018 Farm Bill could help the alliance’s lobbying efforts, especially if hemp attains GRAS (generally regarded as safe) status, which would spur large food companies to sell CBD products, Mr. Haney said.

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“Our basic approach is, at low daily intake levels, we’ll seek to have CBD registered and regulated as a food ingredient. It is not intoxicating. It is not addictive and it doesn’t have any habituation,” he said, adding at that point, U.S. companies will already have large production and established brands than those in Canada.

The Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) also wants Health Canada to regulate CBD as a natural health product, as the group says people who buy CBD from recreational cannabis retailers are doing so to get well rather than to get high.

Earlier this year, the World Health Organization stated there was no evidence of any public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD, while the World Anti-Doping Agency dropped CBD from its list of controlled substances, permitting athletes to use it.

“Unlike recreational products, (natural health products) must inform consumers of what the product does, how much to take, for how long, and provide warnings about when to seek professional help or avoid use,” said Helen Long, CHFA president.

“We believe that when it comes to CBD, Canadians are being forced to experiment and figure things out on their own.”

Mike Dixon, professor and director of the Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility at the University of Guelph who is leading the charge there to establish a cannabis research centre, said that while more clinical trials on CBD are needed, there is no evidence showing it causes any ill effects or side effects.

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However, Dr. Dixon said: “There hasn’t been any research in enough detail to meet the compliance requirements of most governments these days.”

CBD, or cannabidiol, is just one of around 140 cannabinoids discovered so far in cannabis, he said, adding he believes it is safe to be placed for sale in stores.

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