Firm falls in line after Health Canada warning over COVID-19 claims for CBD

A Canadian company part-owned by singer Bif Naked has run foul of Canada’s national health authority after suggesting its CBD products can help protect users from COVID-19.

Health Canada sent a warning to MonaLisa Healing in late March after reports the company had made the claim in a newsletter. The Canadian-incorporated company does not have a government licence to sell hemp CBD in Canada.

The letter raise concerns “about what appeared to be activities with cannabis without a valid licence as well as non-compliant promotion of cannabis,” the agency said.

Spokesperson Tammy Jarbeau added: “In its response to Health Canada, MonaLisa Healing confirmed that it has completely suspended all licensable activities with hemp CBD, including prohibited promotion, that it will not conduct any licensable activities with hemp CBD without a valid licence, and that it will not engage in any prohibited promotion to Canadians.”


Available sanctions


A pop-up window now appears on the company’s website spelling out that “MonaLisa Healing CBD is not a cure or preventative for COVID-19, Coronavirus”.

If you consult products on the website from a Canadian location, a chat-box pops up advising that the company’s products are not available in Canada.

Jarbeau said Health Canada would take action should it find the company failing to comply with the country’s Cannabis Act.

Under Canadian law, Health Canada can impose a wide range of sanctions, including cancelling federal licences to produce cannabis products, issuing ministerial orders, or imposing fines of up to $1m CAD. However, the department weighs each incident on a case-by-case basis and often begins with education and voluntary compliance.

Charles Exeter, director of International Business Development for MonaLisa Healing, said the company had complied with Health Canada’s directives.

He said it had not been aware of the requirement under Canadian law to have a licence to sell products with CBD until it received the letter from Health Canada.


‘We were surprised’


“They were kind enough to let us know that selling hemp CBD, even with zero THC, in Canada required a marijuana licence,” he said. “We, of course, were surprised and for good reason.”

Exeter said his company was not the only one that was unaware it needed to be licenced under the cannabis regime to sell hemp CBD in Canada. He said MonaLisa Healing was looking into what type of licence would be best for its purposes and would decide later date whether to apply for one.

“It’s difficult to understand why citizens in America, UK and EU have free market access to hemp CBD with zero THC and Canada has lumped it in with marijuana sales,” Exeter added.

“We do not market or mention COVID-19 coronavirus, however we do believe that CBD does help the immune system.”

The company, incorporated in British Columbia, continues to sell products outside the Canadian market. The COVID disclaimer pop-up continues to appear in all jurisdictions.


What This Means: The statement by MonaLisa Healing, a Canadian company, that it was unaware of its obligations under Canadian law may seem disingenuous, though it appears to have complied rapidly and fully once made aware.

The episode parallels a number in the US, where companies that have made a wide variety of more or less wild claims about CBD’s efficacy in the face of COVID-19 have faced warnings and threats of possible further action from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Elizabeth Thompson CBD-Intel contributing writer

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