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Health Canada: Cannabis Samples Are Permitted

cannabis flower cannabis flower

In nearly every industry built on consumables, from the food industry to pharmaceuticals, product samples play a vital role. After all, the saying, ‘the proof is in the pudding’ is predicated on the premise that someone is actually trying out the metaphorical pudding to determine if it is the real deal.

Product samples are particularly important in the emerging cannabis industry given the fact that cannabis flower can vary widely in quality, effectiveness, and other desirable traits such as smell and flavor. There are many varieties of cannabis, and even the same grower cultivating the same cultivar can yield differing results due to a multitude of environmental factors.

Matters get even more complex for cannabis products that are derived from cannabis flower. In addition to the intricacies of the cannabis crop itself, adding the extra layers of extracting techniques that produce concentrates from flower, or infusing cannabis into edibles, drinkables, and topicals, complicates knowing what the final product may be like.

Trying product samples is the only way for retailers and their employees to know what a cannabis product is truly like, and there seems to be some confusion in Canada about whether or not cannabis producers can provide samples to licensed retailers and their employees. That confusion was cleared up recently via original reporting by StratCann. Per excerpts from their reporting:

In an email to StratCann, a representative of Health Canada affirms that federally licensed cannabis producers are “not prohibited from providing a sample of cannabis to a provincially or territorially authorized retailer (or their employees).”

“Employees of a provincially or territorially authorized retailer are not prohibited from possessing, distributing, or selling cannabis, provided they do so as part of their employment duties and functions, and in a manner that is consistent with the conditions that apply to their employers’ authorizations. In other words, it’s up to PTs [Provinces and Territories] to regulate whether and how employees of retail stores can possess, distribute (and potentially consume) free samples in the context of their employment duties and functions. Each province or territory could have additional legislation that relates to this type of activity.”

StratCann followed up with four individual provinces to confirm that they expressly permit product samples at the local level. Those provinces are British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario.

Of the four provinces, Saskatchewan and Ontario have permitted product samples to retailers and their employees since the start of adult-use legalization in late 2018. British Columbia and Alberta started expressly permitting such activity last year. Health Canada also lists the following information regarding product samples:

Free samples of products or accessories

A person that sells cannabis or cannabis accessories cannot provide or offer to provide cannabis or a cannabis accessory without consideration or in consideration of a purchase.

For example, a free accessory for the purchase of cannabis or cannabis as bonus with any purchase. This can include:

“Free 1g pre-roll samples”
“Free rolling papers with purchase of cannabis Product X”
“Buy one and get one free”
A nominal amount of monetary consideration may be considered an inducement and non-compliant with Subsection 24(1)(a) of the Cannabis Act.

Exemption: Intra-industry samples

Licence holders that provide samples to a person authorized to sell cannabis, such as a provincially or territorially authorized retailer, are exempt from this prohibition. However, the retailer may not provide samples to consumers. Cannabis samples must comply with the other applicable rules in the Cannabis Act and Cannabis Regulations, including those on packaging and labelling, and good production practices.

Each province or territory may have additional legislation that could apply to this type of activity so regulated parties should be familiar with all relevant legislation and consult with provinces and territories as applicable.

For more information, refer to subsection 24(2) of the Cannabis Act or 24(3) as it pertains to cannabis accessories.