health canada

Health Canada Roundtable pt. 2: Retail, concentration limits, medical cannabis, and more

In part two on Health Canada’s cannabis roundtable, CLN examines:

  • Retail
  • Concentration limits
  • Medical Cannabis
  • Interprovincial trade barriers
  • Branding

The roundtable, held last month in Vancouver at Canada Place, was a chance for open dialogue between the BC cannabis community and Health Canada. Please see part one for the discussion on cannabis licences, micro-grows, genetic diversity, and edibles.


As mentioned in part one, the federal government is proposing two federal licenses for selling to the public- medical and non-medical licenses.

One of the big questions was the cannabis industry’s supply chain structure, with many supporting vertical integration similar to BC’s wine industry- hoping for a system where small growers can sell to consumers directly. The importance of the craft cannabis market was heavily emphasized, and the community is very much against the Walmartization of the industry.

Riell Capler, a PhD candidate at UBC, asked how much of government-run cannabis stores would be given to craft growers, noting that in BC liquor stores, craft beer makes up less than 10%.

Most of the cannabis community was strongly opposed to co-locating cannabis and alcohol, saying it does not make sense to put cannabis in the same category as alcohol because cannabis is comparatively much safer.

Concentration limits

With concentrates making up at least 40% of the market, it may be no surprise that concentration limits weren’t very popular, although it was said that a 30% THC limit may work for flower– especially since it seems to be the upper limit for it anyways. The average flower can run anywhere from 5-20% THC, and the good stuff can get as high as 25- 30% THC.

The THC limit of industrial hemp, which normally contains between 0.3-1.5% THC, was also a major issue. As a speaker at the roundtable said, to get 10% CBD, you need cultivars with up to 2% THC- so limiting industrial hemp’s THC content at 0.3% would limit the amount of high CBD cultivars that could be grown in the future.

Health Canada supports Medical

Eric Costen, who was there on behalf of Health Canada, said that the “government will maintain the medical system, even once recreational is legal [because they] want to make sure access points that are currently available are maintained”.

To further improve access for medicinal users, the government is looking into making it easier for patients to switch licensed producers– which will hopefully not only give patients more choice, but improve product quality and reduce the number of recalls as LP’s face more competition from each other.

Provincial Trade Barriers

[Editor’s note: Horatio refers to Horatio Delbert, concentrate maker]

Health Canada says if there are any trade barriers, it will come from the other provinces, not the federal government.

Horatio responded, saying “that letting provinces create barriers to trade will be very hard to enforce and detract from transition [from illegal to legal]. I’m in BC but as a national brand, if [I] tried to sell in BC only, [my] business [would] not viable. But [it’s] hard to penetrate provincial monopolies.”

Health Canada is not against branding

Health Canada said it is not prohibiting cannabis brands or branding, but it is yet to be seen whether cannabis gets similar marketing restrictions to tobacco. A group of licensed producers have suggested their own advertising rules- which are stricter than alcohol, yet looser than tobacco- and health advocacy groups want cannabis in plain packaging.  

For Health Canada and the rest of the government, they are still trying to find that balance.


Photo Courtesy: Zeidler Partnership Architects