Recall on pure CBD oil products in Canada found tainted with THC

Published Dec 30, 2019 10:00 a.m. ET
iStock / Helin Loik-Tomson

Imagine starting out with little to no knowledge on the cannabis plant and its products, then conducting plenty of research to find out that CBD (cannabidiol) can provide many of the same benefits as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), and that those positive traits might be enough to help you without the uncomfortable impaired sensations of a stereotypical high.

Now consider what it would be like to be brave and make an investment in CBD oil, only to get your bottle home, take a dose, and end up feeling incredibly stoned for the first time in your life with absolutely no notice that getting high was a possibility.

Chances are you would feel confused, possibly scared or overwhelmed, and with no choice but to let it run its course. That is exactly what has happened to customers all over Canada who bought what they believed to be just CBD oil.

It turns out there was an error in the processing and labeling facility that resulted in THC oil being wrongly labeled.  So far, the majority of these misrepresented THC oil products were sold by the Government of New Brunswick’s marijuana dispensary Cannabis NB.

The affected product

As soon as the issue was reported, Health Canada issued a statement of a recall in hopes of avoiding anyone else having such an experience, but Zenabis, the makers of the THC oil, was the first to issue a statement warning customers to check their containers just in case, while Cannabis NB has yet to post an official notice in fear of backlash from the public.

Consumers who have purchased Namaste CBD Light gel caps that are produced by Zenabis are being asked to return their product in the original package to the Cannabis NB store. The THC capsules claim to contain just CBD, and a minimal dose of it, with only 6.13 mg per pill, but in reality, they hold almost 3mg of THC. Perhaps, not enough to get an experienced consumer high, but more than enough to put less experienced people who are in safety-sensitive roles such as drivers, or doctors, into precarious and even dangerous situations, so there is some urgency surrounding this announcement.

What to do if you have a mislabeled product

The recall isn’t entirely clear as to what to do with these tainted products, but according to Zenabis, returning them to the vendor they were purchased from or tossing them out are the two safest options. Since the problem was caught relatively early, Cannabis NB still had over 600 units remaining and shipped them back to the producer, and it is believed that a total of 126 mislabeled products made it into the hands of unsuspecting consumers before the issue came to light.

Is this the first mislabeling issue?

This is an unfortunate situation, and one that could cost people their jobs, or in the very least, their trust in the legal cannabis industry, but it seems like the lightning-fast response to the problem is an improvement over the very first reported incident, which also took place in New Brunswick in February of this year. That time, the makers in question were Canntrust, who shipped out thousands of trained CBD oil.

In that case, many adverse reactions were reported to Health Canada, and in this one, none have been so far. The first incident also saw over 700 individual units sold before someone picked up on the mistake, which shows that our regulatory system is slowly improving with time. The most significant difference between the two situations is that the first products actually had the correct label on the bottles, they were simply placed into the wrong boxes.

That small factor made it so that customers would see that they have THC oil before ingesting any of it, as long as they read the label, but in the latest case, all of the important labels are misleading.  This left consumers with no real way to tell the difference without clinical testing.

No matter how you feel about the cannabis industry, it is important to recognize due diligence, and the businesses that are partaking in this new and exciting corner of the market are constantly improving to offer customers a more reliable level of service and safety.

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