Is CBD Safe? Health Canada Report Weighs In

By Ariane Beckman, David Kramer

Aug 23, 2022

In July 2022, Health Canada released a report titled, “Review of cannabidiol: Report of the Science Advisory Committee on Health Products Containing Cannabis.” The report was compiled by Health Canada’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Health Products Containing Cannabis, and reviewed currently existing studies and information regarding the safety and efficacy of healthy adults using non-prescription cannabidiol (CBD), as well as CBD use for animals.

The report concluded that, for healthy, non-pregnant adults, CBD is safe for a maximum of 30 days at daily doses ranging from 20 milligrams to 200 milligrams when taken orally. The committee also determined that CBD alone is non-habit forming and non-addictive.

The report recommends including specific warnings on CBD product labels, including that CBD can potentially interact with other drugs or alcohol, and that CBD should not be used by individuals who are pregnant, lactating, or considering pregnancy, or people with allergies or hypersensitivity to cannabis, cannabinoids, or other components of the manufacturing process. The report’s CBD safety determination and dosage recommendation are limited to healthy adults, so it is important to make consumers aware of the possible risks of non-prescription CBD if they are not “healthy,” as defined by the report.

At the same time, however, the report also acknowledges that much of the currently existing research was not conducted using randomized or blinded studies. Instead, most studies were observational, small scale, and/or short-term. Because of the varying quality of the studies, it is difficult to determine accurate dosages for CBD. Dosages can also vary depending on how the CBD is administered (i.e., orally ingested, versus inhaled, versus applied topically), whether the user is taking other medications, and certain individual characteristics of the user (e.g., metabolism, weight, etc).

The report also acknowledges that the majority of studies for CBD focus on using CBD to treat more serious health conditions, such as epilepsy. The report focuses on whether CBD is safe for healthy adults and for treating some mild conditions such as nervousness, mild pain, or mild sleep concerns. The focus on CBD use for healthy adults posed additional challenges when compiling the research since there are far fewer studies for CBD use by healthy adults. 

There are even fewer studies regarding CBD use for animals than for humans. Animals pose unique challenges as compared to humans because scientists must consider how CBD will affect different species, and residue limits for CBD (and other phytocannabinoids) for food-producing animals that could end up within human food products or be exported internationally. 

Because of these challenges, the report could only conclude that low doses of CBD, meaning 0.2-2mg/kg taken orally twice a day, are safe for dogs when treating pain associated with osteoarthritis. There are promising studies that suggest CBD may also help dogs with other ailments and behavioral concerns, but these studies are not yet conclusive. CBD may also be safe for cats and horses for certain health and behavior concerns, but again studies are not yet conclusive.

The report is an important step towards establishing the safety and health benefits of CBD, but also shows the need for further studies and research on CBD and cannabis products in general.       

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