Both a Langley cannabis company and Health Canada are rushing to reassure people that commercial cocaine production will not be taking place in the community.
As the Langley Advance Times reported on Thursday, March 2, local firm Adastra Labs does have a licence to produce up to 250 grams of cocaine, but only for lab, research, and medical purposes.
“The Dealer’s Licence issued to Adastra Labs does not permit Adastra Labs to sell coca leaf, psilocybin or cocaine to the general public,” said a clarification and retraction issued by the firm on Friday, March 3. “For cocaine, and under the Dealer’s Licence, Adastra Labs is only permitted to sell to other licensed dealers who have cocaine listed on their licence including pharmacists, practitioners, hospitals, or the holder of a section 56(1) exemption for research purposes under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA).”
A Health Canada statement emphasized the same point, including both Adastra and Sunshine Earth Labs, a Victoria-based firm with a similar licence.
“Health Canada has contacted both companies to reiterate the very narrow parameters of their licence,” wrote Health Canada spokesperson Mark Johnson. “If the strict requirements are not being followed, Health Canada will not hesitate to take action, which may include revoking the licence.”
On March 2, a political firestorm erupted after news reports circulated repeating claims from Adastra’s previous February press release about being issued the Health Canada licence to make cocaine.
“We proactively pursued the amendment to our Dealer’s Licence to include cocaine back in December 2022,” Forbes was quoted as saying in the first release. “We will evaluate how the commercialization of this substance fits in with our business model at Adastra in an effort to position ourselves to support the demand for a safe supply of cocaine.”
The press released also mentioned B.C.’s recent decision to decriminalize up to 2.5 grams of hard drugs, an attempt at harm reduction and reducing the thousands of lethal overdoses and toxic drug deaths B.C. has seen in recent years.
However, multiple politicians suggested that the licence was going to allow Adastra to start selling cocaine commercially.
B.C.’s NDP Premier David Eby was asked about the Adastra announcement at a press conference on mental health funding, while in the B.C. Legislature, Liberal leader Kevin Falcon and his MLAs fired questions at B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth.
Eby, Farnworth, and even Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said they were surprised by the announcement.
Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre bashed the Liberals and NDP and accused them of having a radical agenda of “flooding the streets with heroin, fentanyl & crack,” in a tweet.
The radical NDP/Liberal agenda of flooding the streets with heroin, fentanyl & crack has more than tripled overdose deaths in BC.
I will end the chaos in our streets & bring home treatment & recovery to save lives. https://t.co/7Gg16mO7Lu
— Pierre Poilievre (@PierrePoilievre) March 3, 2023
But there was never any plan for commercial sale.
Cocaine produced under Health Canada licences is used for medical research and a small number of medical procedures. It is currently used in some surgical procedures to numb the mouth, throat, and nasal cavities, as a topical anaesthetic.
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