Unlicensed, yet using Health Canada labels

Published on December 17, 2020 by David Wylie

Guess which one of these products is licensed... trick question: none of them are.

A BC cannabis retailer says unlicensed products bearing what look like Health Canada labels are blurring the lines for consumers.

The retail manager voiced his concerns about the labels during an event hosted by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to get feedback before an upcoming review of The Cannabis Act.

“I’m no law professor but that’s the true definition of fraudulent, and I would like to see our government step in and deal with that because it puts us in a position where customers are coming in and saying, ‘oh, no, it’s Health Canada approved,’” he said.

Due to fear of repercussion, the oz. agreed to withhold his name.

The manager took issue with products sold at Indigenous Bloom stores, which are prevalent throughout parts of BC. The stores are located on First Nations land, including Okanagan Indian Band territory.

   • RELATED: BC is burying its head in the sand when it comes to Indigenous pot

Indigenous Bloom’s website and social media advertises numerous types of unlicensed cannabis products showing the recognizable THC logo and yellow warnings required on federally licensed products, including oils, vapes, and flower.

“Here in the Okanagan the black market, legacy, whatever you want to call it, is thriving,” he said.

“Now we’re paying an exorbitant amount for cannabis inspectors, for cannabis safety units—and the mandate and what’s being done, it’s two different universes.”

He said those at his licensed store are trying to educate people about legal product, but “that’s not our job. Our job is to provide a service here in the legal retail market.”

He said retailers were told there was going to be a significant education campaign, which has not come to fruition.

Health Canada did not directly answer whether it considers the use of its labels in this specific case to be fraud.

In an emailed statement to the oz., a department spokesperson says:

“As in any regulatory framework, there will be instances where individuals choose to operate outside of the law. Anyone who suspects illegal activity, such as the unauthorized production, sale or distribution of cannabis, including sale of fraudulently packaged and labelled cannabis, should immediately contact their local law enforcement authority.”

Health Canada added that concerns can be reported to Health Canada by completing an online Cannabis Reporting Form.

A selection of unlicensed products being sold by Indigenous Bloom that bear an uncanny resemblance to licensed products:

Unanswered questions…

Indigenous Bloom has not responded to several requests for comment. Here are the questions we asked them:

  • Why use the Health Canada template rather than your own unique style?
  • One licensed cannabis retail store owner called using Health Canada-style labels ‘the true definition of fraudulent.’ Where do you stand on that?
  • Weedmaps recently took all unlicensed stores off its site, including Indigenous Bloom locations. What is your reaction to that move?

Indigenous Bloom says on its website that it’s a co-operative of First Nation and Indigenous peoples.

“We consolidate long-term partnerships with First Nations and Indigenous Peoples on Indigenous lands for the production and dispensing of medicinal hemp and cannabis products,” says its website.

Updated Dec. 22 with Health Canada comment; removes name of retailer due to harassment