CBD Legislation in Canada

by Alfred van der Heide
canadian flag

In 2018, when Canada renewed its cannabis laws, a surge of critic complaints and praise from supporters swept across the news. Even though the Canadian laws declared CBD legal, the legislative openness has been subjected to strict regulations. Despite the legalization, CBD laws of the country are complicated and vary as per the instructions of individual provinces.

In terms of consumption, marijuana and CBD products have been legalized only for recreational and medical use, in moderation. To operate within the Canadian market, sellers must cross innumerable legal hurdles. Consequently, many CBD products manufactured in European countries or the United States of America are out of bounds in Canada.

In this article, we will keep you updated about the CBD legislation in the country so that you can choose the best options for buying these products.

A Brief Canadian legal history of cannabis

Before diving into the current laws, let’s look at the country’s complex history of cannabis. Back in the early 19th Century, cannabis cultivation was promoted by the government for its many practical uses to revive the economy. However, hemp cultivation was soon replaced by cotton by the end of the 19th Century as labor costs were cheaper.

In 1923, around fourteen years before banning cannabis in the United States, under the Narcotics Drug Act Amendment Bill, the Canadian government added cannabis to the Confidential Restricted List. Many historians think that a paragraph from Emily Murphy’s book, The Black Candle was one of the significant reasons for cannabis prohibition. The author, who was also Canada’s first female magistrate, described the plant in her book as a trigger for homicidal inclination in users.

In the following years, cannabis started becoming associated with the psychoactive effects of marijuana. As a result, from 1930 to 1940, people saw a large number of cannabis convictions. Again, the legal status of hemp was heavily affected due to this.

Finally, in the 60s, due to the rise of the counterculture, marijuana became popular. However, advocates began to make efforts to legalize cannabis only ten years later. The government allowed the growing and processing of industrial hemp in 1998, but under stringent rules. The scene for CBD became worse after the two bills to decriminalize recreational marijuana failed in the consecutive years 2003 & 2004. The penalties were rapidly increasing, and the seven-year sentence span for cannabis production doubled to 14 years.

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So, is CBD production and consumption finally legal in Canada?

Yes. Regardless of the THC ratio in cannabis, today, CBD is legal in Canada. The government allows the cultivation of industrial hemp and marijuana.

What does the Cannabis Act say about buying?

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Under the Cannabis Act, several regulations have been levied on both hemp and cannabis plants. As per the rules, the legal age for purchasing and consuming cannabis products is 19 (18 years in Quebec and Alberta).

Also, you cannot buy a massive heap at a time. The one-time quantity in public is restricted to 30 grams. It totals to just over an ounce. However, purchasing more from black markets can be risky because, according to the Canadian government, if a person is found with more than the 30-gram limit, that can result in up to 5 years of jail.

Summary of Buying Regulations of CBD

  • Regulated under the Cannabis Act, irrespective of THC content, CBD is categorized under the same rules as cannabis.
  • CBD retailers must apply for a license to be able to sell the products in the market. The process, however, takes months to complete & it also involves a hefty fee.
  • In Canada, CBD oils are legal and can be purchased from dispensaries without a prescription.
  • Most European and US CBD manufacturing brands are not available for purchase in the country.

Rules for growing Cannabis (CBD-containing) Plants

If someone wants to grow cannabis to profit from it, the government grants two different licenses.

  • Abiding by the regulations mentioned in the Cannabis Act, commercial farmers are granted a cultivation license when they want to grow plants whose THC content exceeds 3%.
  • Obtaining an industrial hemp license is even more difficult due to the government’s strict controls as to which hemp variety is eligible for a commercial growing license. This license is issued under the Industrial Hemp Regulations section of the cannabis act. With the industrial hemp license, a farmer can only cultivate cannabis plants having less than 3% of THC content in any part of the bush.

As for personal use, the legislation permits Canadians to grow weed at home but, limited to 4 cannabis plants.

Exporting and Importing CBD products

The imports and exports of Canada’s CBD products are controlled by the United Nation’s SCND (Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs) regulations since Canada is a member country. So, the country is allowed to import and export CBD products but, only under the following conditions:

  • Any CBD product imported into or exported from Canada must mandatorily qualify in terms of scientific and medical usage.
  • Any seller who is willing to import or export CBD needs to hold a current retailer license that has been issued by abiding by the rules and law stated in the Cannabis Act.
  • Acquiring permits are a must for each import and export shipment of CBD products. Distributors, thus, need to approach Health Canada for the same.
  • The federal government of Canada does not regulate seeds because they don’t contain cannabinoids. That is good news for hemp farmers who want to import seeds. All they need is a permit or a license granted by Health Canada.

Production & Distribution of CBD health products

CBD is one among plenty of phytocannabinoids that are counted under Canada’s Prescription Drug list. CBD brands that make claims of being health products have to seek approval from Canada’s Food and Drug Regulations. While cosmetic products can contain derivatives only from approved hemp plants, veterinary or natural health products can only include hemp-seed extracts and non-viable seeds, in compliance with Industrial Hemp Regulations.

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Laws for CBD edibles

Before the new Cannabis regulations came into effect in 2019, selling edible CBD products under the Canadian government’s jurisdiction was banned. Only after the amendment of the old regulations, CBD laws for Food included the following provisions:

  • Reducing the chances of foodborne illnesses
  • Minimizing the appeal of CBD-containing products to underage citizens
  • Limiting the threat of accidental consumption or overconsumption of CBD edibles
  • Banning CBD use in pet foods

The Legislative Confusion between CBD & THC

Even though newer chemical constituents are frequently discovered, CBD and THC are both well-known cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. However, depending on the specific plant or strain in question, the concentrations of these cannabinoids may vary significantly.

The fundamental separating factor between the two is that CBD products are believed to be non-psychoactive and instead considered to contain potent therapeutic advantages; on the other hand, THC contains psychoactive properties.

For instance, the THC ratio is lower than CBD in the hemp variation of cannabis Sativa as compared to the high THC to CBD ratio for general cannabis Sativa.

So, where lies the confusion in terms of their regulations? Or is there at all any legit confusion? Some CBD producers (inappropriately) are separating THC and CBD in terms of regulations, or they are under the misconception that CBD products are controlled differently based on their source. This rather bizarre belief is perhaps the result of hemp not containing psychoactive properties and because CBD is not mentioned under Canada’s definition of Industrial Hemp.

The different laws in provinces

As far as purchase and consumption laws are concerned, they differ dramatically in each province.

  • In Alberta, a purchase is allowed only from online dispensaries or government stores. Added to the restriction of smoking inside vehicles, landlords have the authority to prohibit CBD vaping and can legally remove violators from the rental.
  • While most provinces give citizens the provision of growing up to 4 cannabis plants for personal use, Manitoba severely restricts home-cultivation and public smoking or vaping.
  • Smoking is limited to private residences in Newfoundland and Labrador.
  • In Nova Scotia, you can vape or smoke in pre-designated areas.
  • Alberta shares the rule of no smoking in public areas and vehicles with New Brunswick.
  • While you can consume CBD anywhere other than no-smoking zones in British Colombia, the government here penalizes people driving under the influence of CBD.
  • If you are under the influence of marijuana in Nunavut, your driving privileges can be discontinued, and consumption is restricted to licensed lounges and private residences. Home cultivation is allowed but, if you’re living in a rented space, the landlord can ban cannabis plantation on the premises.
  • Quebec’s cannabis quantity is limited to 30 grams for public possession and 15 grams for private residences.
  • Instead of government-run dispensaries, Saskatchewan uses a private (licensed) distribution network such as the One Eyes Weedery Shop in Outlook.

Tips for buying CBD (legally) in Canada

  • THC oil and CBD oil are different. Understand the difference.
  • Look up the seller company and go for proven brands.
  • Buy from CBD Oil Canada or look for any other Canadian-certified seller.
  • Compared to US CBD brands, you are more likely to avail of shipping from European brands.
  • Look beyond the aesthetics like the packaging because a CBD product with great branding may still be low in quality.
  • CBD products that are labeled with health claims are illegal in Canada- avoid them.
  • Check for third-party testing, so you will know whether what the company is advertising is true.

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