A company selling cannabidiol oil has suspended sales in Canada after a CBC News investigation revealed its product is illegal.

HempWorx, a Las Vegas-based multi-level marketing company sold the oil through a network of Canadian affiliates.

The product was popular in the alternative medicine world because many believe CBD oil — which does not get you high like regular pot — has wide-ranging health benefits.

But CBD is a controlled substance like marijuana, which is illegal without a prescription. And HempWorx CBD oil is not authorized for sale in Canada, according to Health Canada.

“Anyone who has evidence that this product is being sold in Canada should provide this information to law enforcement, and should be aware that this product would be illegal to purchase,” a spokesperson for the federal department told CBC News on Thursday.

On Friday, the company sent out an email to affiliates announcing it was “temporarily suspending HempWorx from sale in Canada until licensing has been awarded by Health Canada.”

‘Completely different’

Dr. Jen Gunter, a Winnipeg-born obstetrician-gynecologist who focuses specifically on celebrity wellness trends, says the advertising for such products sounds the same as health products that have been approved for sale in Canada.

“It sounds the same, and that’s what’s really concerning,” Gunter said. “To somebody that doesn’t have a medical background, that does sound exactly like, ‘Oh there’s good medical studies.’ But it’s completely different. It’s really glossing over the edges, and it’s almost like a shell game.

“It’s very hard for the public to tell the difference.”

She suggested consumers should look to what Health Canada says about a product, and look for results from “randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials.”

‘Not-so-great news’ for sellers

Multiple messages to HempWorx were not returned. In April, one of its Winnipeg-based affiliates told CBC News that its sale is “100 per cent legal.”

It is not clear what type of licensing the company was seeking from the health regulator but the email said it made the application nine months ago.

The company acknowledged the problems this could cause for its Canadian affiliates who were building their HempWorx businesses.

“This may be not-so-great news, and we are committed to making things right for you,” the email said. “Canadians will not get purged from the system for not meeting active order requirements.”

The company told affiliates the shut-down to the Canadian market was “due to the increasing demand to bring HempWorx products to Canada and our commitment to compliance.”

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