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Counterfeit Cannabis: How To Tell If Your Canadian Weed is Actually Legal

Published on June 26, 2019 · Last updated July 28, 2020
Brittany Flegel/Leafly

A recent report by CBC News underscores the importance of the little excise duty stamp affixed to all legally-purchased cannabis products in the country.

The news outlet reports that in Saskatchewan, counterfeit cannabis products including pre-rolls of dried cannabis have been making the rounds, bearing the same red standardized THC logo and yellow warning messages that legal cannabis products must contain by law.Join the Leafly Canada CommunityThose behind the fake ‘legal’ products could face a daily dose of legal jeopardy. While the federal Cannabis Act contains criminal offences against production and selling, the federal Excise Act also contains offences against packaging cannabis for sale without an excise stamp, a small paper-like stamp that lawful producers must affix to all packages.

It’s precisely that excise stamp that consumers should look for on their packaged cannabis in order to determine if the product is legal. The middle portion of the excise stamp should also glisten under light and should come with a unique number written on it.

Will they remain one step ahead?

Counterfeiters are known to stay one step ahead in other industries, but it doesn’t appear they’ve gone to the lengths of faking and affixing actual excise stamps to their packages.

If they do, however, it’s possible it might become practically impossible to detect whether it is a real product or not.

Still, there are ways you can identify whether your product was lawfully produced.

How to be sure your product is legal?

Suspicious that your cannabis product might not have been legally produced? Here’s what you will see on every legal cannabis product:

First, look for the excise stamp, which is affixed to the outermost packaging that your product comes in. If it’s missing, doesn’t match your province, or the middle part of the stamp doesn’t shine, that’s usually a warning sign.

However, no stamp could mean that it’s a low THC product, which is exempt from the excise stamp.

In addition, you will always see the THC and CBD content labelled, whether in milligrams or as a percentage.

Finally, you can also look into the parent company behind the apparent brand of the product. Health Canada has a list of all producers on their website. This may take a bit of legwork, as the parent company typically has a different name than the brand.

If the product bears a licensed company’s brand but you’re still unsure as to the product’s veracity, you can call the company with the phone number listed by Health Canada for each licensee or, if one is not listed, you can find the number on the producer’s website.

Ontario verification

Are you in Ontario? In that province, the Ontario Cannabis Store online shop as well as all legal recreational cannabis stores must display an “Ontario Authorized” seal indicating that the retailer is authorized by the provincial government.

Jesse Milns/Leafly

You can typically find this mark just outside each store. Each store will also have a paper license inside their premises from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.

And while there have been no reports of counterfeits unlawfully reproducing that mark, it might just be a matter of time before we start seeing bootleg Ontario Authorized signs on illegal dispensaries.

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Harrison Jordan
Harrison Jordan
Harrison Jordan is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto and enjoys reading and writing about the regulatory affairs of cannabis in Canada and around the world.
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