There is increasing interest, both in Canada and worldwide, in CBD. CBD is a compound found in the cannabis plant. It is regulated in Canada under the Cannabis Act.
On this page
- Where CBD comes from
- How we regulate CBD in Canada
- Growing cannabis plants containing CBD commercially
- Producing and selling CBD
- Importing and exporting CBD products
- Industrial hemp
- What industrial hemp licence holders may and may not do
- Importing and exporting industrial hemp
- The difference between cannabis oil and hemp-seed oil
- CBD and prescription drugs
- CBD in natural health products, veterinary health products and cosmetics
- CBD in human food or pet food
Where CBD comes from
The cannabis plant contains hundreds of chemical substances. Over 100 of these are known as cannabinoids. Cannabinoids derived from cannabis plants are sometimes called phytocannabinoids.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of these cannabinoids. CBD is not intoxicating and may reduce some of the effects of tetrahydracannabinol (THC); however, it does have an effect on the brain.
CBD can be found in different varieties of the cannabis plant, including hemp.
All phytocannabinoids are regulated under the new Cannabis Act. The Act came into force on October 17, 2018.
How we regulate CBD in Canada
CBD is a controlled substance under United Nations drug control conventions. Consistent with the controlled status of CBD internationally, CBD is a controlled substance in Canada and other jurisdictions.
As a result, CBD and products containing CBD are subject to all of the rules and requirements that apply to cannabis under the Cannabis Act and its regulations. This includes CBD derived from industrial hemp plants, as well as CBD derived from other varieties of cannabis.
Under the Cannabis Act activities with phytocannabinoids (including CBD) remain illegal, unless authorized.
Before the Cannabis Act came into force, CBD was:
- regulated under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
- strictly controlled
It was not legal to produce, sell, import or export CBD unless authorized for medical or scientific purposes.
Under the Cannabis Act, CBD products remain strictly regulated and are only legal when sold in compliance with the Act and its regulations.
The Act and accompanying regulations place strict controls on cannabis:
Health Canada oversees the production of cannabis products. Health Canada is also responsible for overseeing the distribution and sale of:
- cannabis, including any CBD-containing cannabis products for medical purposes
The provinces and territories are responsible for determining how cannabis is distributed and sold within their jurisdictions.
They set rules around:
- how cannabis products can be sold
- where stores may be located
- how stores must be operated
Growing cannabis plants containing CBD for commercial sale
To cultivate any cannabis plants that you intend to sell, you must have a federal licence issued under the Cannabis Act.
This licence could be:
- a cultivation licence under the Cannabis Regulations
- authorizing growing of cannabis plants with varying amounts of THC and CBD
- an industrial hemp licence under the Industrial Hemp Regulations
- authorizing cultivation of specific varieties of cannabis plants with a THC content of no more than 0.3% in the flowering heads, branches and leaves.
Producing and selling CBD
CBD and products containing CBD are subject to all of the rules and requirements that apply to cannabis under the Cannabis Act and its regulations.
You must have a processing licence to manufacture products containing CBD for sale, no matter what the source of the CBD is.
CBD and products containing CBD, such as cannabis oil, may only be sold by a:
- provincially or territorially-authorized cannabis retailer
- federally-licensed seller of cannabis for medical purposes
Importing and exporting CBD products
Movement of cannabis and cannabis products between countries is covered by 3 United Nations drug conventions, including the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 as amended by the 1972 Protocol.
CBD is currently a controlled substance under the Single Convention. CBD products may therefore only be imported or exported under very specific conditions. Any import or export must meet all of these criteria and may only be done:
- by a holder of a licence issued under the Cannabis Regulations
- under an import or export permit issued to the licence holder by Health Canada for that shipment
- for a legitimate scientific or medical purpose, as per international agreements
Industrial hemp is cannabis that contains 0.3% THC or less in the flowering heads and leaves.
The Industrial Hemp Regulations under the Cannabis Act set out the requirements for cultivators of industrial hemp. As is currently the case, cultivators of industrial hemp must grow from the hemp varieties approved for commercial cultivation.
Although it may not have more than 0.3% THC, there is no limit to the amount of CBD that may be contained in industrial hemp plants.
The Cannabis Act and its regulations do not distinguish between CBD derived from industrial hemp and CBD derived from cannabis with greater than 0.3% THC.
What industrial hemp licence holders may and may not do
An industrial hemp licence holder may cultivate hemp to produce a number of different products. They may:
- sell viable seeds
- sell grain (i.e. non-viable seeds) or hemp seed derivatives for use in:
- other products
- cultivate hemp for the flowering heads, branches and leaves, which may contain CBD
- sell those flowering heads, branches and leaves to a licence holder under the Cannabis Regulations, who may then extract the CBD
Hemp producers may not extract the CBD themselves, unless they also have a cannabis processing or research licence.
Importing and exporting industrial hemp
The Industrial Hemp Regulations authorize importing and exporting industrial hemp seed or grain, but not the flowering heads, branches or leaves.
The flowering heads, branches and leaves may only be imported or exported by a licence holder under the Cannabis Regulations:
- with a permit issued under those regulations
- for legitimate medical and scientific purposes
To import or export the industrial hemp seeds or grain, you must:
- hold a licence from Health Canada
- have an import or export permit issued by Health Canada
When importing or exporting industrial hemp seeds or grain, you may also need to obtain an import or export permit from the other country, depending on their rules.
The difference between cannabis oil and hemp-seed oil
Cannabis oil is 1 of the 5 classes of cannabis that may currently be legally sold in Canada by provincially and territorially-authorized retailers:
- cannabis oil
- fresh cannabis
- dried cannabis
- cannabis seeds
- cannabis plants
Cannabis oil is a combination of:
- usually in the form of a THC and/or CBD-rich extract from the leaves and flowering heads of the cannabis plant, which may include plants classified as industrial hemp
- a vegetable-based or plant-based oil such as:
- grape seed
- hemp-seed oil
Hemp-seed oil is oil made from pressing the grain of hemp plants. It is processed like other oil seeds, such as canola. In order for hemp-seed oil to be exempt from the Cannabis Act, it can’t contain more than 10 parts per million of THC.
For hemp-seed oil to be exempted from the Cannabis Act, no phytocannabinoid including THC and CBD may be added or concentrated by processing.
Hemp-seed oil is marketed in Canada in:
- natural health products
- veterinary health products
CBD and prescription drugs
All phytocannabinoids, with several exceptions, are listed on the Prescription Drug List. If you wish to manufacture and sell a health product containing CBD that makes a health claim, you require approval for the product as a prescription drug under the Food and Drug Regulations.
CBD in natural health products, veterinary health products and cosmetics
Only limited parts of cannabis or hemp plants may be used in a:
- natural health product (NHPs)
- under the Natural Health Product Regulations
- veterinary health product (VHPs)
- under the Food and Drug Regulations
NHPs and VHPs may only contain parts of the cannabis and hemp plants that are not considered cannabis under the Cannabis Act or that are excluded from the application of the Act. This includes things such as:
- non-viable seeds
- hemp-seed derivatives that are compliant with the Industrial Hemp Regulations
- mature stalks that do not include any leaves, flowers, seeds or branches and fibre from such stalks are also excluded from the Cannabis Act, but they may not be used in veterinary health products.
Deliberately adding phytocannabinoids to such products is not permitted.
These same restrictions also apply to cosmetics, which may only contain hemp derivatives.
CBD in human food or pet food
Edible cannabis will not be permitted for sale until the Regulations Amending the Cannabis Regulations (New Classes of Cannabis) come into force on October 17, 2019.
These regulations set out strict controls to reduce the:
- appeal of such products to youth;
- risk of accidental consumption, especially of edible cannabis, including by youth;
- risk of overconsumption associated with edible cannabis because of the delay in experiencing the effects of cannabis when it is ingested rather than inhaled; and
- risk of foodborne illness associated with the production and consumption of edible cannabis.
Edible cannabis will only be available for human consumption.
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