After months of waiting—and loads of speculation—we finally have some concrete info about the regulation of edibles in Canada. In June, Health Canada released details (over 200 pages, to be exact!) of when these products will be (legally) available and how consumers can actually get their hands on them.
Many people in the cannabis industry have been eagerly awaiting these announcements:
“I think any proactive changes to the legislation are great because it’s definitely not perfect as is, and I hope they continue to make changes while considering evidence-based policy and trends from other places where cannabis legal,” says Sarah Hanlon, the winner of Big Brother Canada Season 3 and an outspoken cannabis advocate.
Sarah Gillin, co-founder of Olli Brands, which will release cannabis-infused tea blends later this year, is also pleased. “We had planned a lot of our business around the draft edibles regulations that were announced in December and much of what was announced on Friday confirmed these assumptions,” she says. “It is nice to finally have certainty.”
Considering that Deloitte recently predicted the edibles side of the cannabis industry is on track to bring in roughly $1.6 billion per year in this country, it’s definitely a good thing for everyone in the industry these regulations have finally been laid out. But as for how those 200+ pages affect consumers? Here’s a primer on everything you need to know about legalization 2.0.
What’s actually legal?
Dried and fresh cannabis, seeds for home cultivation, pre-rolled joints and oils (including softgels, capsules and elixir sprays) have been legally available to consumers since October 17, 2018. This June, when Health Canada released its plan for the next wave of cannabis legalization, it took a conservative look at how edibles and topicals will be rolled out in the market. As of October 17, 2019, edibles (including beverages), topicals (i.e. lotions, balms, creams and more) and cannabis extracts (such as concentrates like shatter, dabs or wax), will all be legal. It’s also worth noting that when it comes to cannabis-infused beverages, Health Canada will not allow these to be mixed with alcohol, nicotine or caffeine.
These new options are good for anyone looking for alternative ways to consume cannabis, says Danielle Blair, founder of Calyx Wellness, a line of hemp-derived CBD tinctures. “It’s a positive step,” she continues, “that we’re moving forward in regards to regulating edibles, especially when it comes to medicinal patients—this is the best approach for their health.” (Some health concerns around cannabis consumption stem from the idea of smoking it—like cigarettes, there are potential health risks to smoking a joint or inhaling from a vape pen.)
What are the restrictions?
The government is being cautious, however, when it comes to the amount of THC allowed per product. As with dried flower, the potency of the product for purchase must be clearly displayed on packaging, and that potency cannot exceed 10 mg of THC per package. What has always been a big question mark regarding cannabis is how it will affect someone—each individual reacts differently to cannabis in general, and then to each strain as well. This is likely why the government has taken such a conservative route in the amounts allowed. As the adage goes, we’ll have to go low and go slow with legal edibles, at least for now.
The Health Canada regulations are also pretty specific about packaging, noting that it must be child-proof and opaque, and cannot be designed in a way that is appealing to children. And that last part makes sense, obviously. But because HC doesn’t define what “appealing to children” means exactly, some people in the cannabis community have concerns.
“We feel it limits [product] differentiation,” says Gillin. She also brings up the ecological concerns about packaging: The idea that packages can only contain 10 mg of THC, means that many consumers will likely buy more—and in this instance, more product means more plastic waste. Hanlon agrees, saying that the amount of packaging that will be created due to these rules is a major concern, and is ironic considering that the Trudeau government announced its plastic waste reduction strategy just a week prior. “Overpackaging is already a concern in the cannabis space because of strict guidelines, and it will most likely get worse with a limit for edibles of 10 mg of THC per package instead of per piece,” she says.
What about CBD?
There are still a few areas that have not been addressed in this latest round of legislation. Currently, CBD is still lumped into the Cannabis Act as a regulated product, meaning that it can only legally come from a licensed producer and be sold at cannabis retailers, but some companies sell products in what is called the “grey market.” From Blair’s point of view, the omission of CBD in the latest rounds of regulations—that would ideally have made it more accessible—is a major misstep. “It’s such a blind spot for the consumer because everybody’s hearing about CBD and all the benefits ,” she says.
What else is missing?
Given the fact that most cannabis producers sell to both recreational and medical markets, Hanlon says she would like to see the removal of taxes on medical cannabis to ensure that medical patients are seen as a priority. “The medical cannabis community has been negatively affected by legalization in the forms of extra taxes and a shortage of supply,” she says.
It’s great to finally have some clarity on when edibles and topicals will be available legally, but we’ll still have to wait until closer to the end of the year to make those purchases—we should see them hit sanctioned store shelves by mid-December.
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