Health Canada announced this week that it is gearing up to start testing the health effects of inhaling substances emitted from cannabis vape products.

The agency is expanding capacity at the labs it uses to conduct research into nicotine vaping products so that it can test cannabis vaping products too.

It legalized vapes, edibles, beverages, and other concentrates in a move dubbed Cannabis 2.0 in October. It has now processed a number of license applications, and products will start to hit shelves imminently.

Cannabis 2.0 officially began in Newfoundland & Labrador, with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick set to follow. However, Newfoundland & Labrador and Quebec have both defied federal law and outlawed cannabis vapes.

Some industry commentators were hoping that vapes would give Canada’s recreational cannabis sector a much-needed boost. However, their potential to drive growth in the market has been dented by the outbreak of a lung illness that killed dozens of people and injured more than 2,000 vapers across North America.

The illness has been attributed to vitamin E acetate, a chemical used in illicit vape cartridges to thicken them out. Vitamin E is safe to take as a pill or to apply it on the skin, but inhaling oily droplets can be extremely harmful.

U.S. states have banned vitamin E acetate from cannabis vaping products and e-cigarettes, and licensed producers cannot use it as a thickener.

Health Canada wants to conduct more research into vaping cannabis now that products will start appearing at stores across the country in the weeks ahead.

“Given the recent cases of vaping-associated lung illnesses, Health Canada requested additional information from licensed processors on the ingredients and product formulation of certain vaping products they intend to sell in Canada’s legal market,” said Minister of Health Patty Hajdu.

The government’s statement advised Canadians that the best way to protect their health is not to consume cannabis, and it warned that adults who choose to use cannabis should avoid products from illegal or unknown sources.

Elsewhere, Health Canada issued a recall on 770 bottles of Namaste CBD Light gel capsules produced by Vancouver-based Zenabis this week. The label on the bottles said they contained 0.19mg of THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis, when they actually contain 2.247mg.

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