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Cannabis in health products: How CMA is working to protect Canadians

Today in Canada, there are more than 220 health products for sale containing cannabis. And with legalization on track for the summer of 2018, that number is sure to grow.

The promises these products make are many. A quick search of the labels reveal claims for everything from “preventing nausea associated with motion sickness” to “relieving minor skin irritation and itching due to eczema.“

Some labels even urge consumers “to ask your doctor if this product can be taken with other medications.”

To a consumer, this language can be confusing. These products are often stocked on store shelves alongside medical products, and claim to offer relief for a variety of ailments. Add the word cannabis to the label, and consumers are left with more questions. This is because cannabis has often been presented as a medicine.

What many consumers don’t know is that despite being regulated by Health Canada, non-prescription drugs, natural health products, cosmetics and medical devices undergo very different levels of scrutiny than prescription drugs. 

The makers of these products do not need to provide scientific evidence to support the health claims made on their labels.

“Ensuring that health products are safe and effective must be a key component of any regulations on cannabis,” says CMA President Dr. Laurent Marcoux.

So where does this all leave consumers?

Evidence shows consumers want more guidance. A 2010 Ipsos Reid study for Health Canada reported that 71% of Canadians said they need more information about all natural health products.

The CMA believes public health isn’t being served if consumers don’t have all the facts. 

The CMA wants to see regulations to deal with misleading claims on health products containing cannabis, and made this case to the federal government, as part of its recent consultations on how cannabis will be regulated in Canada. 

Dr. Marcoux explains it this way. “We believe rigorous scientific evidence is needed to support claims of health benefits and to identify potential risks and adverse reactions.” 

Read more about the CMA’s work on cannabis policy.

Forward any comments about this article to: cmanews@cma.ca.