Fall 2020: THC and CBD Update in Canada

Speaker: Doreen McMorran, Co-Founder and COO of Ovation Science Inc.

Introduction: Ovation Science is a transdermal product development company with Invisicare, a patented drug delivery technology backed by over 20 years in research and development. Ovation Science licenses and sells its health and wellness products globally, including topical and transdermal cannabis products, as well as Dermsafe, a unique CHG hand sanitizer without alcohol.

Doreen: Thank you for the invite; it’s always nice to be here at Dermatology Update. The presentation will focus on topical cannabis in Canada and an update on the changing markets, rules, and regulations.

There are two main ingredients used in cannabis products: THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).

  • THC is the psychoactive part of a marijuana plant and is being used more and more, even in topical products. They interact with the CB1 receptors found in the nervous system and the brain.
  • CBD reacts to the CB2 receptors, which can be found in the immune system, the digestive organs, and the skin. It is non-psychoactive. They help regulate various systems in our bodies to function effectively.
  • In Canada, both THC and CBD fall under the Cannabis Act, and both ingredients are regulated in the same way.
  • Hemp seed oil comes from the seeds of the hemp plant. It is not classified as cannabis, does not contain any THC or CBD, and is not regulated under the Cannabis Act. It’s similar to a regular antioxidant like coconut oil. If you have patients that are talking about topical products based on hemp, it isn’t cannabis.

Canada’s Cannabis 2.0 in 2018 Fall

  • On Oct. 17, 2018, Canada became the first developed country to legalize cannabis for adult use through the Cannabis Act, approving dried flowers, cannabis oil, and sublingual sprays.
  • In 2019, dubbed “Cannabis 2.0,” the Cannabis Act was amended to include the sale and production of edibles, topicals, and vapes.
  • In 2020, there are no changes regarding auxiliary products, but they are slowly but steadily coming to the Canadian market. Still, these only constitute 0.2% to 0.4% of the Cannabis market.
  • In Canada, CBD is a controlled substance. CBD is therefore subject to all of the regulations that apply to cannabis (marijuana), including CBD derived from industrial hemp. The Cannabis Act does not distinguish between CBD, hemp, and cannabis.
  • There was some expectation that CBD would be regulated differently, but this did not happen. Instead, COVID-19 happened.

CBD: Is it just a fad?

  • Google searches for CBD have increased 500% since 2017.
  • Consumers continue to self-educate: U.S. Google searches for CBD are at 6.4 million each month in 2019 (Source: Prohibition Partners).
  • 44% of regular CBD users spend $20-$80 per month on CBD products, while 13% spend more than $160 per month. In Nevada, a 2oz jar can cost up to $90.
  • More than 58% of consumers prefer cannabis edibles, including CBD-infused coffee, juices, and more.
  • Conclusion: Attitudes towards CBD are continuing to shift on a global scale. This will only pick up speed as legislation changes and more research studies continue shedding more light on its therapeutic potential.

CBD and THC in Canada: Are Topicals Still Coming?

  • Cannabis-infused topicals come as lotions, balms, creams, and oils that contain cannabinoids (CBD and THC).
  • Purpose includes pain/wellness creams, lubricants, and increased use in cosmetics, skincare & dermatological conditions. The cannabinoids in topicals interact with the CB2 receptors in our skin, providing relief without getting you high.
  • Spring 2020 topicals became available in Canada: Only 3 brands launched and only 6 SKUs are available in Canada. (AdCann Blog: “The Cannabis 2.0 Market in Canada: Topicals”).
  • The global CBD skincare market size is expected to reach $1.7 billion USD by 2025 (Grand View Research Inc.)
    There are many unexplored combinations for topical products such as lotions, balms, lubricants. There was even a CBD mascara.
  • On the regulations front, in Canada, CBD is treated the same way that THC is. At this time, there cannot be any branding or claims. The regulations for CBD have not changed, so there are very few topical products in Canada now.
  • As claims cannot be made on cannabis products in Canada, patients are relying on the Internet for information. Dermatologists may have patients asking about information about cannabis products.
  • Nonetheless, the CBD market continues to grow. According to Deloitte, the topical cannabis market alone will account for 174 million in sales in Canada in 2020.

Cannabis and the Pandemic

*All figures in CAD dollars. Statistics are taken from Prohibition Partners and Statistics Canada.

  • Nearly 30% of users surveyed (Canada & U.S.) expected to increase their CBD usage to alleviate stress, anxiety, and general wellness.
  • Retail cannabis sales in Canada declined only slightly despite the COVID-19 pandemic, falling 0.6% from March’s record high of 180 million to 132 million in April.
  • June, July, and August had sales of 200 million, with an implied Canadian marijuana market of 2.8 billion.
    Reasons for the increase include more people at home, more time, and more comfort consuming cannabis.
    More spend on legal cannabis as some people are reluctant to meet illegal dealers.
  • The ground is shifting, as there are more licensed retailers and better access, a safer environment, and changing social attitudes. Budtenders and other staff are also becoming more knowledgeable about their products.

Cannabis and the US Election

  • Limited cannabis deals in the past year, but now mergers & acquisitions are increasing as potential new U.S. legalization attracts buyers, including Canadian companies seeking U.S. expansion.
  • Kamala Harris sponsored one of the most far-reaching and comprehensive cannabis legalization bills: The MORE Act (Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019) that would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and facilitate the expungement of past convictions.
  • Over 90 cannabis-related bills are waiting on Capitol Hill, including the SAFE Act (Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act of 2019).
  • Everyone will want a piece of the pie: Global cannabis sales are expected to reach 19.7 billion by the end of the year, increasing by 38% over 2019. According to BDS, a cannabis market researcher, the 2025 forecast is 47 billion a year.
  • Will this impact the Canadian market? Greater competition and faster advances will challenge the Canadian market, but we will have to wait and see.

DermSafe Hand Sanitizer

  • Ovation Science has a polymer delivery system that goes into topical products. We decided to launch the DermSafe hand sanitizer. There is a 4-hour window that resists washing off with DermSafe.
  • DermSafe is a non-alcohol hand sanitizer. We use chlorhexidine gluconate. It’s non-drying and non-flammable and helpful for people with dermatitis, which can be exacerbated by alcohol.
  • Independently tested and approved for in Canada by Health Canada under “disinfectants and hand sanitizers accepted under COVID-19 interim measure.”
  • Independent tests verify that DermSafe will stay on the hands for extended periods while killing bacteria and viruses. DermSafe is tested to kill 99.97% of human coronaviruses, MRSA, E.coli, C.diff, staph, and others.

Q&A Session

Q: What was meant by Health Canada approving hand sanitizers?

A: Health Canada has a list of hand sanitizers that they’ve approved to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. DermSafe is on that list. It’s an alternative to alcohol. In addition, chlorhexidine has data that supports killing enveloped viruses, as well as solid persistence. The monograph is available for those who wish to see it.

Q: What are some of the evidence for CBG for topical use for skin conditions? Do you know of any particular products that have any indications for skin diseases?

A: As far as I’m aware, there are no products with any indications because even in the United States, where it’s deregulated, you actually cannot make any claims. In terms of CBG, I may have seen one or two CBG topical products, but CBD dominates the market.

Q: Patients are often quite adamant that CBD is curing many of the skin conditions that they have. I don’t know where they’re getting their evidence from or why they’re going out on a limb to make these purchases, but they are very keen on trying these alternatives.

A: It’s a bit of a catch-22 because there is little research, but the research is also quite constrained because of various restrictions starting with transport. This leads consumers to Google and to find their own evidence. In Canada, where you cannot label at all, finding information will be even more difficult.

Q: With new laws, perhaps it will make it easier to investigate?

A: Yes.

Q: Should dermatologists start to sell this out of their office?

A: In Canada, you need to be licensed to sell any cannabis product, including CBD. That was one of the regulations, which we believed would have changed this spring, where CBD would be allowed to be distributed in a different way other than a licensed facility. This did not happen.

Q: It seems that this would need to be revisited if it’s in a topical, which should be more widespread.

A: Yes.

Q: What is the likelihood of contact dermatitis to various cannabis-based products?

A (from another dermatologist): Most of the contact dermatitis I’ve seen is pertaining to the vehicle. It’s often in an organic beeswax base, a company in Vancouver that makes the product. So I tried to contact that company to get the individual ingredient list to test the cannabis itself, but they said no. There are also very few publications available because getting cannabis to test people (for contact dermatitis) is what the limitation is. I’m ready, however, when that Act changes to test small samples and break down each ingredient. Most of the ones that I’ve seen, which is less than 10 in the last two years, have been to the organic beeswax.

A: It’s also only in the last year that topicals were legalized, so you don’t know where your patients are getting it from.