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Health Canada looking into pot firms’ sponsorship of charity event

TORONTO — Health Canada is looking into whether two cannabis companies’ sponsorship of a children’s charity event last October is in violation of promotion restrictions within the Cannabis Act.
Cannabis sector companies Canopy Growth Cor…

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  • TORONTO — Health Canada is looking into whether two cannabis companies’ sponsorship of a children’s charity event last October is in violation of promotion restrictions within the Cannabis Act.

    Cannabis sector companies Canopy Growth Corp. and Halo Labs were among the sponsors of an Oct. 23 event in support of Kids, Cops & Computers for the Merry Go Round Children’s Foundation, whose honorary chairman is federal Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair.

    During the annual event called Inspiration Night, held in Toronto, the cannabis companies’ logos were used in a poster of sponsors and other materials, according to pictures posted by the non-profit online.

    A Health Canada spokesman says the Cannabis Act does not prohibit the sponsorship of a person, entity, activity or facility but that sponsorship cannot be used to promote cannabis and it is prohibited to display a brand element of cannabis.

    “We are gathering facts and information about the situation to determine whether there may be an instance of non-compliance with the promotion prohibitions in the Cannabis Act,” said Health Canada spokesman Geoffroy Legault-Thivierge in an email.

    He added that Health Canada has followed up with the company to ensure it is aware of the promotions prohibitions, and it understands that the Foundation has removed the names of the cannabis companies from the list of sponsors on its website.

    Under the Cannabis Act, that came into effect when Canada legalized pot for recreational use on Oct. 17 last year, there are strict guidelines on promotion and marketing. Those include a ban on promotion that is appealing to youth, and sponsorship of people, events or buildings. However, approaches between licensed producers in the months since legalization have varied and some industry players have said that reflects uncertainty on how to interpret murky portions of the act.

    The act stipulates that it is prohibited to display, refer to or otherwise use a brand element of cannabis directly, or indirectly, in a promotion that is used in the sponsorship of a person, entity, event, activity or facility. As well, it is prohibited to display the name of a person that produces, sells, or distributes cannabis, sells or distributes a cannabis accessory or provides a service related to cannabis.

    Merry Go Round’s president Mark Zwicker said at the time of the event, the Cannabis Act was so new it wasn’t clear whether brand elements could be used. The charity has since removed the logos from its website, he said.

    “It’s a grey area and we don’t want to do anything that would materially affect the charity… I can assure you that no one that was involved with the charity would have knowingly taken any action that would contravene the act,” Zwicker said.

    Canopy Growth said it is not prohibited from sponsoring an event as long as cannabis is not promoted.

    “There was no promotion of Canopy’s donation,” stated spokeswoman Caitlin O’Hara. “The only public mention of Canopy Growth’s corporate donation was the company’s logo on the charity’s donation page and logo placement at the event itself, which was a private event.”

    Halo Labs and Bill Blair did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    The sponsorship portion of the Cannabis Act does have some “grey areas,” such as whether a holding company would be subject to the sponsorship restrictions, said Ottawa-based lawyer Trina Fraser.

    “In and of itself, it is not a producer or distributor of cannabis, its subsidiaries are… I think there is still some greyness around that,” she said.

    However, the act says it is prohibited to use a trademark or brand name slogan that evokes or is reasonably associated with cannabis, said Toronto-based lawyer Matt Maurer.

    “Even if Canopy is the parent company, using their name is a brand element because it is associated with cannabis, that’s what they do…. There’s an argument to be made on both sides.”

    When reviewing regulated activities under the act, Health Canada considers each situation on a “case by case-basis,” said Legault-Thivierge.

    “A range of factors including, but not limited to, the purpose of any promotion, its content, its context, and its intended audience would be assessed when enforcing the prohibitions on promotion in the Cannabis Act,” he said.

     

    Companies in this story: (TSX:WEED)

    Armina Ligaya, The Canadian Press

    Note to readers: A previous version referred to Canopy Growth and Halo Labs as licensed producers


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    Agriculture

    Canada needs stronger policies to protect against imported-dog diseases: vets

    VANCOUVER — When a British Columbia woman experiencing fever, headaches and weight loss for two months finally went to her doctor, a blood test revealed she’d contracted a contagious disease from a dog she’d rescued in Mexico.
    Dr. Elani Galan…

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  • VANCOUVER — When a British Columbia woman experiencing fever, headaches and weight loss for two months finally went to her doctor, a blood test revealed she’d contracted a contagious disease from a dog she’d rescued in Mexico.

    Dr. Elani Galanis, an epidemiologist and public health physician at the BC Centre for Disease Control, said the case was surprising because the previously healthy middle-aged patient didn’t seem to be a candidate for the transmission of brucellosis, which medical literature suggests can afflict people with weakened immune systems, or the very young and elderly.

    “Up until this adult woman became infected and tested positive we felt like the risk to humans, although possible, was very, very low,” said Galanis, who wrote about the anonymous woman in a recent issue of the BC Medical Journal.

    The woman worked for an animal-rescue organization that transported dogs to Canada from Mexico and the United States, often driving there to pick up the animals, Galanis said.

    On one occasion, she was bringing back a pregnant dog from Mexico and likely came into contact with the animal’s pregnancy fluids as it spontaneously aborted two stillborn puppies, Galanis said, adding the dog later tested positive for the bacterium brucella canis and the woman was diagnosed after seeking medical treatment last December.

    “Given the story in other places, like the rest of North America, this hasn’t been seen much before,” Galanis said of transmission of the disease to humans. “We’re just starting to see it so I do believe it’s a true emergence of a new problem.”

    “For us, the priority will be to ensure that physicians are aware that this is possible, that they ask the question about contact with animals, particularly imported dogs.”

    Rob Ashburner, a veterinarian and spokesman for the B.C. branch of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, said efforts to have stricter regulations on the importation of dogs involving multiple federal agencies have so far been fruitless.

    “The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association has spent a lot of time trying to get the federal government to put some rules in place where animals imported from other countries should be tested for a bunch of communicable diseases, brucellosis being one of them,” he said. “Dogs from the warmer climates have all sorts of parasites that we don’t have here and they bring them in and affect our population as well.”

    Plenty of dogs are available for adoption in Canada, Ashburner said, adding rescued animals can be traumatized after long trips and bring with them behavioural problems people may not expect.

    The Canadian Food Inspection Agency establishes requirements for animals such as dogs coming into the country.

    It said dogs that are less than eight months old are inspected by its veterinarians at borders and older dogs are inspected by Canada Border Service Agency officers, who also review the animals’ certificates, such as those listing any vaccinations.

    “If the CBSA officer has any concerns, such as the animal showing signs of illness or incomplete/incorrect paperwork, they call a CFIA veterinarian for examination,” the agency said in an email.

    Ashburner said examinations at the border are not comprehensive and current regulations, requiring just a rabies vaccination, have been in place for decades, long before an increase in the number of pets and rescue-dogs being brought to Canada, sometimes with certificates that are bogus.

    “In reality, just from personal experience, there are times when what the paperwork says is not true,” he said, adding while more dogs are being brought to Canada, there are no national statistics on how many are coming in.

    The Public Health Agency of Canada said it acknowledges the global movement of animals, including dogs, can facilitate the spread of diseases that can be passed on to people.

    “Educating breeders, importers, rescue organizations and Canadians on both the risks and mitigation measures is important to manage this issue,” it said in an email.

    However, the agency did not respond to questions about whether it plans to consider any policy changes involving potential transmission of diseases to humans.

    Emilia Gordon, a veterinarian and senior manger of animal health with the British Columbia branch of the SPCA, said various groups in the province are trying to create standards of practice for rescued animals.

    “This is really an important issue for Canada,” she said. “I’ve personally seen a number of significant diseases in animals that were rescued from shelters in other countries.”

    “We are increasingly seeing surrender requests for animals who were rescued from other countries and we’ve actually had to set an entire set of protocols and procedures in place to do risk assessments on these animals as they come in,” she said, adding up to five imported animals a week are being brought in to shelters around the province.

    The United States, Mexico and south and central America were the major source countries about five years ago but that changed in the last year, with more dogs coming in from elsewhere in the world, including Asia and Morocco, Gordon said.

    — Follow @CamilleBains1 on Twitter.

     

     

    Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

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    Agriculture

    Bibeau presses Chinese counterpart on canola ban at G20 ministers’ meeting

    OTTAWA — Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau says she used a G20 ministers’ meeting in Japan to press her Chinese counterpart for the evidence behind Beijing’s bans on Canadian canola.
    The overture follows last week’s intervent…

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  • OTTAWA — Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau says she used a G20 ministers’ meeting in Japan to press her Chinese counterpart for the evidence behind Beijing’s bans on Canadian canola.

    The overture follows last week’s intervention by Canada at a major World Trade Organization meeting to demand China deliver proof that Canadian canola is contaminated.

    China has stonewalled requests for Canadian experts to examine Chinese evidence that two canola shipments had pests, and there was no sign Wednesday the Canadian food inspectors would receive travel visas from Beijing any time soon.

    Bibeau made clear Canada’s persistent prodding of China and her Chinese counterpart would continue as the uncertainty and strain of declining Sino-Canadian relations was on full display.

    “All of the G20 was about having a rule-based trade order and I’m confident that he will relay our conversation to his colleague responsible for customs China,” Bibeau said. 

    China’s rejection of Canadian food products is part of the escalating tension following the RCMP’s December arrest in Vancouver of Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou. The Chinese telecom giant is at the centre of a mounting political battle, which was on display Wednesday, over whether it will equip Canada’s fifth-generation wireless networks.

    Nine days after Meng’s arrest, China imprisoned two Canadians — ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor — and accused them of violating China’s national security. Spavor received his seventh consular visit Wednesday, a day after Kovrig’s seventh, as both men remain locked in a Chinese prison without formal charges and no access to lawyers.

    Meng’s arrest has outraged China’s communist leaders. Meanwhile, Huawei denies the U.S. allegations that its new, next generation digital communications equipment is an organ of Chinese-state espionage.

    President Donald Trump effectively banned Huawei from the U.S. on Wednesday when he signed an executive order declaring a national emergency over what the Commerce Department deemed as “threats to the information and communications technology and services supply chain by foreign adversaries.”

    Conservatives mounted more pressure on the Trudeau government Wednesday to follow Trump’s lead and ban Huawei from supplying equipment for the Canada’s fifth-generation wireless networks.

    Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said the government should have already selected one of Huawei’s rivals to be Canada’s next 5G provider. 

    “They should have made a decision much earlier. Had they done that, they could have taken this off the table,” Scheer said after meeting with his caucus. 

    “We have two Canadians being held illegally in China. We’ve seen actions against Canadian canola exports now moving into pork exports,” he added.

    “All along the way, the government of China is escalating the situation and Justin Trudeau has done absolutely nothing about it.”

    Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the government will take the time it needs to make an informed decision about which company it will select to serve its 5G needs.

    “It is a huge enabling new technology that has enormous potential, but it also carries with it, depending on the supply chain, some significant risks,” he said, “and we want to make sure that all of that is factored very carefully into a Canadian decision so we get the advantages of the technology, but we do not in any way comprise national security.”

    Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the government will take “a measured approach to how we deal with companies in Canada and with our international relations.”

    Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

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