A Canadian health panel has called on the government to support studies that will look more broadly at the potential of CBD as a health aid while ensuring consumer safety.
The Canadian government’s Scientific Advisory Committee stressed that the lack of consistent data makes it difficult to draw concrete conclusions and recommendations for CBD, and urged support for “high-quality clinical research into the safety and efficacy of cannabis, CBD and other plant-based medicines.”
The analysis comes in a recent report on CBD that is being sought by the country’s main health body, Health Canada, and aims to guide the rule-making process.
The committee began examining the advisability of allowing CBD products to be purchased without a prescription in 2019.
Curb health claims
The advisory group unanimously agreed that CBD may be effective in the short-term treatment of common, non-habitual pain, and therefore is safe and acceptable for short-term use for a maximum of 30 days without supervision from a physician or nurse practitioner.
But the report said that CBD should not be promoted as a treatment to reduce consumption of opioids or alcohol as there are no specific studies indicating its effectiveness in treating those conditions. The committee also found that clinical evidence was not available to support many producers’ claims that CBD-based products promote sleep or relieve pain.
Government policy prohibits both product packaging and retailers from making specific CBD health claims. But a 2021 study of more than 2,000 CBD products sold through 70 websites found that sellers often tout CBD as a natural solution to many health issues. The study also found that 53% of the products made health claims for a total of 171 medical conditions on their packaging.
CBD remains a controlled substance in Canada, regulated in a similar way to high THC marijuana, but licensed and unlicensed sales suggest the market could reach C$2 billion (US$1.5 billion) and grow at a rate of 7% per year if it were regulated The compound as an over-the-counter health product, estimated by the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) earlier this year.
Federal regulations in Canada now limit sales of CBD to locally licensed dispensaries that specialize in marijuana products. But illegal sales outside that channel are common, and have received little response from public health and law authorities.
“While our goal is to support consumer access to safe products, we also need to consider knowledge gaps and public health risks,” the report advises.
The Scientific Advisory Committee also recommended the following:
- The daily intake of oral CBD is set at a dose of 20-200 milligrams per day for healthy adults, who should discuss the potential effects of combining CBD with other medications and substances with their pharmacist.
- CBD should not be used by women who are pregnant or considering pregnancy, breastfeeding mothers, or those who are allergic or hypersensitive to hemp, hemp or any substances that may be present in products as a result of the manufacturing process.
- CBD products should have clear dosing instructions and warnings of potential side effects, should carry statements about possible interactions between cannabidiol and other drugs or alcohol, and be packaged in boxes with informational entries on each sales unit.
- Multiple, user-friendly channels should be created so that consumers can easily report adverse reactions that result from the use of a CBD product.
- CBD can be given to dogs orally twice daily, but only in very low doses of 0.2-2 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. The committee said that no recommendation has been made regarding the use of CBD on cats, due to a lack of available research.
- Owners should consult a veterinarian before administering CBD to their pets.
- Pet products should also be labeled and include informational entries. Labels should indicate that the product should only be used if your veterinarian has diagnosed the animal and has discussed the risks and benefits with the owner.
- Public education efforts about CBD should be implemented.
“We recognize that while these recommendations may not meet the perceived needs of all stakeholders, we feel that our recommendations strike a balance between safety and accessibility,” the committee said.
Health Canada should review the committee’s CBD recommendations on a regular basis as research expands in Canada and internationally, the report concluded.