Allergic reaction?

Our well-informed advice columnist explores the mysteries of cannabis allergies and pardons for pot possession


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Dear Herb: Could I be allergic to cannabis? 

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/01/2018 (1842 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Dear Herb: Could I be allergic to cannabis? 

I started taking CBD drops for arthritis, and got what I thought was a cold (or allergy). I stopped the drops, and my cold went away.

Started the drops again after I felt well. Got a raging “cold” — sneezing, drippy nose and used a whole box of Kleenex in one day! No drops last night or today and I feel fine, no symptoms.

Herb answers your questions about legal consumption and growing, the law, etiquette — you name it, he'll look into it.

What the heck? — Al

Dear Al: I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but yes, it’s absolutely possible that you’re allergic to cannabis.

I’m not a doctor, and I can’t diagnose you. But the symptoms you described — sneezing and nasal drip — sound to me like rhinitis, which is one of the known symptoms of a cannabis allergy. Other reported symptoms include red, itchy eyes, athsma, and even anaphylaxis. (If you feel like learning more, this 2015 academic literature review does a good job of summarizing what the medical profession currently knows about cannabis allergies.)

It’s also possible that you’re not allergic to cannabis, but rather to some other ingredient in your CBD drops. Or, it’s possible that the drops could be contaminated with some kind of fungus or mould, which could also cause an allergic reaction.

If you want to continue using CBD drops for your arthritis, you could try switching to another type of CBD oil or tincture to see if you have the same reaction. But ultimately, I think the smartest move would be to get assessed by an allergist before you continue using cannabis products.

Call up your local allergy clinic and tell them about your situation, and be specific — witholding information for fear of embarassment or other consequences will keep the doctor from doing their job properly. An allergist can perform a skin prick test, which involves scratching or pricking the surface of your skin and introducing a small amount of the potential allergen to induce an allergic reaction. (Don’t worry, even if you do have an allergic reaction, the process is safe — just rather itchy.)

If you know what other ingredients are in your CBD drops, you could also ask the allergist to test for reactions to those substances. If you’re using some kind of black-market CBD solution without an ingredient list, this might be a good time to look into quality-controlled alternatives so you know exactly what you’re putting into your body.

Good luck, and please let me know if you manage to solve your medical mystery.



Dear Herb: Any word on how the provinces plan to deal with prior convictions for possession, specifically for small amounts? Will criminal records disappear? — Looking For a Fresh Start

Dear Looking For a Fresh Start: Drug possession in Canada is a crime under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which is federal law, not provincial law. For that reason, it won’t be the provinces who decide what happens to prior drug possession convictions, but rather the federal government.

So, will the federal government do away with previous convictions for cannabis possession?

The answer to that question is unknown, but it’s a hot political topic right now. Just last week, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the federal government is considering some kind of plan to issue amnesty for certain cannabis-related crimes.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later made it clear that any amnesty will only happen “once we have a legalized and controlled regime in place, not before.”

If the government does institute some kind of amnesty for Canadians convicted of cannabis crimes, it’s not at all guaranteed that those criminal records will simply “disappear,” as you wrote. I’m speculating here, but I think it’s entirely possible that any government amnesty initiative could still require Canadians with cannabis convictions to apply for a pardon, perhaps under some kind of expedited system.

For that matter, it’s possible you could apply for a pardon now, but the criteria are quite strict. In order to qualify, you must have completed your sentence, paid any fines, and obeyed any probation orders. There’s also a significant waiting period, in your case likely five years from the completion of your sentence. Criminal record suspensions also cost hundreds of dollars, or more if you hire a third-party specialist to help you through the process.

“(The government) promised changes to the pardon program to reverse all the stuff that Stephen Harper and his tough-on-crime agenda did, and they really seem to be sleeping on that.” – Michael Ashby, director of the non-profit National Pardon Centre,

I personally believe that the government will likely institute some kind of amnesty program for non-violent cannabis-related crimes after legalization, but I expect it will take some time to come into effect.

Again, that’s just my opinion. I called up Michael Ashby, director of the non-profit National Pardon Centre, and he was more skeptical.

“My feeling is, this is not going to happen,” he said. “(The government) promised changes to the pardon program to reverse all the stuff that Stephen Harper and his tough-on-crime agenda did, and they really seem to be sleeping on that. So the idea that there’s going to be blanket pardons for pot convictions, I wouldn’t hold my breath on it.”

Ashby said the government ought to “fix the pardon program first,” before worrying about blanket amnesty for cannabis crimes.

“The big barrier right now is how long you have to wait, and that’s something that Stephen Harper really hammered home and made worse.”

If you don’t quality for a criminal record suspension yet, or if you just want to wait and see if the government issues some kind of blanket amnesty, I’d advise you to keep an eye on the news over the coming year.

If you feel like getting political, this might also be a good time to write to Minister Goodale and share your thoughts on pardons for cannabis possession — remember, you can send postage-free mail to any Member of Parliament!

Got a question about cannabis? Herb answers your questions about legal consumption and growing, the law, etiquette — you name it, he’ll look into it.  Email or to submit anonymously, fill out this form:    


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