A little over a year ago, Newfoundland and Labrador was one of the provinces that appeared furthest ahead on cannabis legalization, given that it had multiple physical storefronts ready to open on Oct. 17, 2018.
Now, just ahead of the availability of a new category of cannabis products in the country, Canada’s easternmost province won’t have a major class of those products available for sale—not because they aren’t ready, but because they’ve decided to hold off.
On Dec. 4, the province’s government announced several new developments for the cannabis industry. Importantly, a decision had been made to hold off on offering cannabis concentrates for sale due to concerns about potential health risks linked to vaping and vaporizer products.
In a release, the government said that in light of reports of severe lung diseases and injuries related to vaping in both Canada and the United States, the choice was made to hold off on introducing vaping products in the province.
Cannabis concentrates, along with edibles and topicals, were federally legalized for regulation on Oct. 17, 2019 and are expected to be available for sale nationwide later this month, depending on provincial approval.
“The intent of the decision is to protect the health of the people in this province until there is more evidence about the connection between cannabis vaping products and severe lung disease,” the statement read.
Newfoundland and Labrador’s government is committed to reviewing the decision on vape products “in light of any relevant clinical evidence.”
This year, serious injuries and illnesses, and some deaths, have been tied to the vaping of both cannabis and tobacco concentrates in both Canada and the US. No cases of such injuries or diseases have yet been reported in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Health Canada has not yet pinpointed a specific cause for the illness, but vaping potentially contaminated cannabis concentrates in unregulated devices has been linked to many cases in the US.
In Canada, however, most cases so far have been linked to vaping nicotine, and in the US, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) identified vitamin E acetate—a thickening agent added to some illicit cannabis concentrates—as a potential cause of the illnesses.
Higher commissions and new online retail options
A few other notable changes were also announced by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, including one that independent cannabis retailers in the province have called for: A higher commission on the sale of cannabis products.
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Right now, retailers receive an 8% commission on the sale of cannabis products, and many independent retailers have said that it isn’t high enough to stay in business.
As of Jan. 1, 2020, Tier One retailers (which sell only cannabis and cannabis accessories) in the province will receive a 12% commission on the first $1 million of sales per calendar year, dropping to 10% for the next $500,000 of sales, and 8% for any additional sales.
Tier One retailers may also soon be able to operate their own retail websites to sell directly to consumers in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation (NLC), which handles cannabis enforcement, is deciding if these retailers should be allowed to sell their products online, which would require legislative changes to be made. No timeline was offered for that potential change.
Finally, the NLC announced that deals had been signed with seven more licensed producers: 7 ACRES, Auxly/Doescann, FIGR, HEXO, Truss Beverages, TerrAscend, and the Green Organic Dutchman.
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