Cannabis edibles mislabelled as cannabis extracts may contain significantly more THC, Health Canada warns

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Health Canada is warning Canadians to read labels carefully, as some cannabis edibles have been marketed incorrectly as cannabis extracts, products that contain far more THC.

In an advisory Friday, the agency stated that it was aware of edible cannabis products that had been “found to contain more than the allowable limit of 10 mg of THC per package.

Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, meaning it is the primary driver of the sensation of being “high” that comes with ingesting cannabis.

“These non-compliant products in product formats similar to gummies and other confectionary products such as hard candy, have been incorrectly marketed and sold as cannabis extracts.”

Purchasing a cannabis edible that has been marketed as a cannabis extract may lead not only to consumers having a far different experience than anticipated, but potentially dangerous overconsumption of THC in some situations.

Cannabis edibles, which often come in the form of chocolates, candies or other confectionary products, are intended to be eaten the way that regular food is, and the effects of the cannabis are designed to be felt more slowly.

Cannabis extracts are products with highly concentrated cannabinoids.

Extracts may include solid forms such as hash or hashish, or liquid form such as oils intended for vaping. Cannabis extract is usually smoked or vaporized, and can contain up to 99 per cent THC.

The concern is that products, which appear visually to be the same as any other cannabis edible, may have been put on market as cannabis extracts and thus contain significantly higher levels of THC than a consumer who’d meant to purchase edibles realizes.

“High-strength cannabis extracts can lead to intense intoxication quickly,” a 2019 flyer from the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction explains. “They can also increase your risk of over-intoxication, symptoms of which include severe anxiety, vomiting and symptoms of psychosis (paranoia).”

The difference in potential THC level between a product marketed as a cannabis edible versus a cannabis extract can be huge.

While products sold as cannabis edibles in Canada are limited to 10 mg of THC per package, products sold as cannabis extracts are permitted to have up to 1,000 mg of THC per container, with up to 10 mg of THC per unit.

Health Canada stressed that when purchasing cannabis products, even if it appears to be a cannabis edible, always read the label to see the amount of THC per unit and per package to ensure that you are not consuming a mislabelled product.

It also added that cannabis edibles and extracts should always be kept safe out of the reach of young children in order to ensure they do not accidentally consume them.

Some symptoms of overconsumption of THC include chest pain, a rapid heartbeat, nausea, difficulty breathing, anxiety, agitation, slurred speech, muscle weakness and even loss of consciousness.

Anyone experiencing adverse reactions to a cannabis product can report those adverse reactions to Health Canada, and should discontinue use immediately.

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