Adastra issues retraction, clarification over cocaine approval

By Hana Mae Nassar and Martin MacMahon

Adastra Holdings Ltd., the Langley company at the centre of controversy after it said it got Health Canada approval to “legally possess, produce, sell and distribute” cocaine, is now walking back its initial claims, saying those “statements should not be relied upon.”

“The Dealer’s Licence issued to Adastra Labs does not permit Adastra Labs to sell coca leaf, psilocybin or cocaine to the general public,” the latest release, issued Friday, reads.

Adastra notes that under its Dealer’s Licence, it is only allowed to sell cocaine “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).”

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“The Company is not currently undertaking any activities with cocaine under the Dealer’s Licence and before doing so, it will only undertake such activities legally permitted by the Dealer’s Licence and after consultation with applicable Provincial Governments,” the statement concludes.

The retraction comes a day after B.C. Premier David Eby expressed surprise that Health Canada had authorized the company to sell cocaine, and had done so without the province’s knowledge.

Eby said he was “astonished” by the announcement when asked about the matter Thursday. He commented a second time Friday, once again expressing his surprise at Adastra’s announcement.

“I am also wondering what the intention was of Health Canada in granting this licence, especially to a company that apparently so significantly misrepresented the nature of the licence and in the press release that they issued,” he told reporters.

Weighing in on the situation Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested the company wasn’t entirely clear on what it was approved to do.

Trudeau reiterated that the company is limited to using the drug for research — as was clarified in Health Canada’s email to CityNews.

“I was as surprised as the premier of British Columbia was to see that a company was talking about selling cocaine on the open market or commercializing it. There are limited and very restricted permissions for certain pharmaceutical companies to use that substance for research purposes and for very specific, narrowly prescribed medical purposes. But it is not a permission to sell it commercially or provide it on an open market,” the prime minister said Friday.

“We are working very quickly with this company to correct the misunderstanding that their press release has caused. This is not something that this government is looking at furthering.”

Amid the controversy created by the company’s announcement last month, Adastra Holdings Ltd.’s stock surged in recent days, going up more than 75 per cent at times Friday on the Canadian Securities Exchange.

With files from Kurtis Doering

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