Manitoba's cannabis regulator says it seized about $34,000 worth of illegal products from vendors at the HempFest Cannabis Expo in Winnipeg this past weekend, and issued its first provincial tickets for unauthorized sale of cannabis.
The seized products included 4,992 individual infused gummy candies and 1,371 grams of cannabis bud, according to Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba spokeswoman Kristianne Dechant.
Also confiscated were 142 "gummy bars," 108 containers of topical cream, 59 packages of cannabis seeds, and various types of potent concentrates meant for smoking or vaping, including shatter and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) distillate.
Two $2,542 tickets for unauthorized sale of cannabis were issued by LGCA inspectors, said Dechant. The inspectors didn't call police.
"LGCA inspectors have the authority to issue offence notices and seize illegal product under the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Act," Dechant wrote in an email to the Free Press.
"The HempFest Cannabis Expo was held (Feb. 23 and 24) at the RBC Convention Centre, which holds a liquor licence from the LGCA and, as such, is subject to regular inspections."
The Free Press observed LGCA inspectors seizing illegal cannabis products at the expo Saturday. The inspectors appeared to be focusing on vendors who were selling products that contained THC, the chemical compound primarily responsible for the high derived from using cannabis.
LGCA wouldn't explicitly say whether the illegal cannabis products were actually sold before its inspectors took action, but said the inspectors "observed activity that led to the tickets being issued and cannabis seized."
Many vendors were also selling cannabidiol (CBD) products without a licence, which is technically illegal under the federal Cannabis Act.
"LGCA inspectors prioritized addressing THC products, as THC is the main psychoactive component in cannabis, while CBD does not cause intoxication," Dechant wrote.
Both CBD and THC are controlled substances under federal law, and require government licences to produce and sell.
Cannabis products containing CBD — including oils, capsules and dried cannabis bud — can be accessed legally with a doctor's authorization through Health Canada's medical marijuana regime. Some CBD products are also available at licensed recreational cannabis stores.
CBD has recently become a darling of the natural health industry, and it's not hard to find products that are produced and sold without government authorization. Unlicensed CBD products for sale at the HempFest Cannabis Expo included oils, topical creams, roll-on sticks, candies, teas and vape pens.
Sacha Hockenhull with the HempFest Canada Expo emphasized only two of the expo's exhibitors were subject to enforcement action from LGCA.
"After LGCA did their assessment and wrote their fines and stuff, the venue, RBC Convention Centre had the exhibitors removed from the show floor," he said. "And they remained removed for the rest of the show."
The expo's exhibitors must agree not to sell illegal products, said Hockenhull.
"Basically, they decided to go ahead and do it anyway, even though we had contacted them three or four times, and they had signed an agreement with us saying they would not do that."
Hockenhull said Cannabis law enforcement by a provincial regulator is new for HempFest, which has six expos planned for 2019, with Winnipeg the first stop. Edmonton is next on March 2 and 3.
Before legalization on Oct. 17, 2018, he said, the RCMP used to show up at HempFest events.
"I would say that yes, enforcement is getting stronger on that, and we are acting accordingly to make sure that we comply."
Solomon Israel is a full-time reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press and for two years, the lead writer for Free Press cannabis news site, The Leaf News. He continues to provide coverage of the cannabis beat while covering business in the city and province.