Walmart isn’t a cannabis retailer, which is required to sell weed products in the country. Some of the now-removed product appears to be produced by CBDfx, an American company, which would mean that it was illegally imported into the country.
Walmart isn’t the first to make such a blunder. Last month, popular barber chain Tommy Guns was openly selling CBD hair care products. It has since removed those products from its website, and Mugglehead learned the business had described their error as an “oversight.”
In light of these contraventions, legitimate Canadian cannabis operators have expressed frustration that they have to play by the rules while big corporations get a seemingly free pass.
Walmart has looked into the matter, and the products sold by a third-party seller on its online marketplace have been removed, director of corporate affairs Adam Gachnik told Mugglehead in an email.
“The items were posted by the seller in error,” he said. “We have also been in touch with the seller to review our policies and procedures.”
But as highlighted by consultant and Aurora’s former chief product officer Shane Morris on Twitter, what appear to be illicit CBD goods remain on the site.
So @WalmartCanada removed the particular brands of illegal CBD #cannabis products highlighted yesterday @MuggleheadMag but someone forgot to do a broader search of their online store…. pic.twitter.com/RNjw0XlXZD
— Shane Morris (@DrShaneMorris) December 13, 2020
Others have pointed out the possibility that the products, if tested, wouldn’t contain advertised cannabinoid concentrations and therefore wouldn’t be subject to restrictions on cannabidiol products in Canada. Only hemp seed, grain or derivatives of these parts of the plant can be shipped over international borders without a permit. A permit is required to import or export hemp flowers, leaves and branches.
And even in the case of hemp, cultivators must choose from varieties approved for commercial growing. Additionally, the Cannabis Act and its regulations don’t distinguish CBD derived from industrial hemp and CBD derived from cannabis with greater than 0.3% THC.
Hemp producers aren’t allowed to extract CBD themselves, unless they also have a cannabis processing or research licence.
As it has done with other regulated parties where potential non-compliance is identified, Health Canada says it will reach out to undertake compliance promotion and look into the situation.
“Should a non-compliance be identified, Health Canada will not hesitate to take action, if warranted,” a spokesperson said in an email.
The federal department recognizes Walmart has already taken action to rectify the situation, and while non-compliance is handled on a case-by-case basis it usually gives operators a chance to comply.
However, if the assessed health or safety risk and compliance history is grave, Health Canada can issue penalties including a fine of up to $1 million.
Anyone with concerns about potential non-complaint activities by a regulated party can report them to Health Canada by completing the online cannabis reporting form.
Update (2020-12-17 12:09 p.m.): This article has been updated to include comment from Health Canada.
Update (2020-12-14 9:40 a.m.): This article has been updated to include comment from Walmart.
Top image by Nick Laba