October 17, 2019 marks the legal sale of cannabis topicals authorized under the Cannabis Act. Cannabis topicals include products that contain cannabis and that are intended to be used exclusively on external body surfaces (e.g. skin, hair, and nails).

A processing licence (standard or micro) is required in order to produce cannabis topicals and to package and label this type of cannabis product for sale to consumers. In order to sell products within this new class of cannabis, individual licensed processors will need to apply to Health Canada to amend their licence.

With respect to cannabis topicals, the amended Cannabis Regulations include changes such as:

Restricting the use of certain types of ingredients (no nicotine or alcohol) and some areas of application (not for use in eyes or on damaged skin).

Placing a limit of 1,000 mg of THC in each package of a cannabis topical.

Requiring child-resistant and plain packaging for cannabis topicals. All packaging is required to display the standardized cannabis symbol and a health warning message.

Prohibiting any claims regarding health or cosmetic benefits on the label.

Putting in place strict new manufacturing controls for the production of cannabis topicals to control the quality of the products.

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The amended Cannabis Regulations will maintain the core plain packaging and labelling requirements that currently apply to all cannabis products, such as the standardized cannabis symbol, health warning messages, THC and CBD quantity or concentration, and child-resistant packaging. In addition to the current labelling requirements that apply to all cannabis products, the following information will be required on the label of all cannabis topicals:
1. A list of ingredients
2. The intended use of the product
3. Directions for use
4. A warning statement

For cannabis topicals, the amount of THC and CBD can be expressed as either milligrams per gram (concentration) or milligrams (quantity). Furthermore, the amended Cannabis Regulations will require labels for all cannabis products (except dried cannabis and cannabis plants) to indicate the product’s equivalency to grams of dried cannabis. This will enable consumers and law enforcement to determine whether an individual is in compliance with the federal public possession limit of 30 grams of dried cannabis “or equivalent”.

Cannabis topical products will not be allowed to contain, or have on them, anything that may cause injury to the health of the consumer when the product is used as intended or in a reasonably foreseeable way.
 This requirement matches the one that applies to cosmetics under the Food and Drugs Act. Furthermore, cannabis topical products must not be appealing to youth and must not contain elements that would associate the product with alcoholic beverages, tobacco products or vaping products. This requirement also applies to the other new classes of cannabis products (edibles and extracts).

Licensed producers should make use of the Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist when looking to determine whether a particular ingredient could pose a risk of injury to the health of the consumer when used in a cannabis topical product. The Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist is an administrative tool that Health Canada uses to communicate that certain substances may be prohibited or restricted for use in cosmetics. 

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