Original cannabis journalism for Canadians

The murky world of CBD oil

Illegal CBD oil is available at a number of illegal online cannabis dispensaries. (Screen capture)

Illegal CBD oil is available at a number of illegal online cannabis dispensaries. (Screen capture)

You can find it being sold at cannabis industry events, through online cannabis dispensaries, and even on Facebook.

Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is marketed as a non-psychoactive, smoke-free treatment for everything from eczema to Parkinson's disease. As CBC News reports today, some of CBD-oil hawkers in Canada claim their product is "100 per cent legal," potentially fooling their customers into breaking the law when they buy it.

It's not hard to see why Canadians might get confused about the facts. CBD can be extracted from legally-grown, industrial hemp — that is, cannabis plants bred to contain negligible levels of psychoactive THC. As a result, some U.S. producers of CBD oil say their product is totally above-board.

But here in Canada, that simply isn't the case (at least, not right now).

Even though you can buy hemp oil in Canadian grocery stores, that oil is extracted from hemp seeds, which contain very little CBD. It's delicious and nutritious, but not a controlled substance.

Any product containing meaningful levels of CBD would have to be extracted from other parts of the cannabis plant, and would therefore be subject to Canada's medical cannabis regulations. It's definitely illegal for an individual to import hemp-derived CBD from the U.S., as cannabidiol is a controlled substance in Canada.

This is confusing stuff, and the media doesn't always get it right. Take, for example, a recent article by CBC's Edmonton bureau about the recent Cannabis and Hemp Expo in that city.

"Adena Lindstrom, who owns Adena's Edibles and Extras, was selling CBD-infused water Saturday," reported CBC. "Because the CBD concentration is low, it's considered a hemp beverage, so she was allowed to sell it at the venue."

CBC's language implies this purported CBD product is legal in Canada, which it certainly isn't. And "Hemp Rain," the brand of CBD water in question, appears to be sold by a company based in Wyoming, suggesting the product was imported illegally into Canada.

If journalists can't figure out the truth about whether a given CBD product is legal or not, how can ordinary Canadians?

Here's the bottom line: Right now, CBD oil is only legal in Canada if it's sold by a licensed cannabis producer directly to a medical cannabis user registered with Health Canada. That requires a doctor's approval.

Buying CBD oil through Facebook, from an online dispensary, over a counter, or at an expo would be breaking the law.

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