Cannabis edibles are now legal: Everything you need to know

TORONTO — New regulations for cannabis edibles and topicals came into effect Thursday, with products expected to reach store shelves in December.

Here’s what consumers and parents need to know.

WHAT ARE EDIBLES?

“Edibles” is the umbrella term for cannabis-infused products, which can include beverages, cotton candy, dissolvable strips, gummy candies or baked goods. And topicals are products which can include lotions, balms, and oils absorbed through the skin for relief of pain or inflammation, according to Leafly.

They’re typically made with cannabis oils or dried flowers and can be a good option for consumers looking to avoid inhaling the smoke from joints or pipes. However, the cannabis effects in edibles can be more potent and affect users for longer periods of time.

Health Canada also notes the latency period after consuming edibles can range from half an hour to four hours before the effect fully kicks in.

This was the “most profound difference” to other cannabis products, Adine Fabiani-Carter, chief marketing officer at cannabis company Tilray, told CTVNews.ca over the phone. “If you’re not feeling an immediate effect, don’t just consume more.”

Otherwise, users can accidentally consume too much and experience stronger, unpleasant and unintended effects. The general advice that she and Health Canada have for new users is to “start low and go slow.”

“The beauty of edibles and beverages is you can really manage the potency … people can really control how they feel,” Fabiani-Carter explained.

WHAT HAPPENS ON THURSDAY?

Beginning Thursday, Oct. 17, licensed producers can begin submitting their edible and topical products to Health Canada. Those products will then be subjected to a 60-to-90-day approval and procurement process.

In other words, Thursday is simply one of the first hurdles for edibles to reach the legal Canadian market. A Health Canada press release said it’s created a “strict legal framework to regulate and restrict access to cannabis keeping it out of the hands of youth, and profits out of the pockets of criminals and organized crime.”

Cannabis edibles
Edible marijuana products are displayed for sale at a Weeds Glass & Gifts medical marijuana dispensary in downtown Vancouver on Friday, May 1, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

WHEN AND WHERE CAN I BUY EDIBLES?

Well, it depends. Because of the aforementioned approval process, products couldn’t hit the legal market until mid-December — at the earliest.

On top of that, provinces will each be allowed to further regulate the products. Depending on where you live, new products can be available in licensed cannabis retail stores, Crown companies such as the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC), and online.

As to whether gummies or beverages will come out first, Alanna Sokic, senior consultant for Global Public Affairs, told CTVNews.ca said that will depend on the focus of individual companies and provinces.

“I would say that B.C. and Quebec tend to take a more robust and certainly more aggressive public health approach to regulating industries such as cannabis,” she said.

And despite the wide variety of products available in the U.S. market, many licensed producers have been concentrating on certain products such as gummies which they get on the market earlier on.

Health Canada further explained that licensed vendors and producers will “need time to become familiar with and prepare to comply with the new rules.”

edibles
In this Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, photo, edible marijuana samples are set aside for evaluation at Cannalysis, a cannabis testing laboratory, in Santa Ana, Calif. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Chris Carlson

IS THERE A RISK TO CHILDREN?

The restrictions on where people can buy or ingest edibles will be largely the same as combustibles. Fabiani-Carter explained these could include being unable to buy cannabis beverages at a bar or eating a pot brownie in a public space.

Although, monitoring this could prove difficult, particularly because of these products’ physical similarity to non-cannabis counterparts. Health Canada also warns that it is still illegal to transport cannabis or cannabis-infused products across the Canadian border.

Back in June, Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said, “I encourage adult Canadians who choose to consume cannabis to remember to store it safely out of the reach of children and youth.” Health Canada also said edibles should be designed to be unappealing to young people, but still has not stipulated which colours, flavours or shapes would be allowed.

Sokic elaborated the majority of products will have “very plain” packaging, the now-standard THC symbol, health warnings and the levels of THC or CBD. “It’ll have a very sterile look to it.”

The government of Canada also warned users to avoid eating cannabis edibles with nicotine, alcohol, other drugs or health products and to not drive while impaired.

“The amended regulations are the next step in our process to reduce the risks to public health and safety from edible cannabis,” Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Bill Blair said in the same release.

WHAT’S THE BUSINESS IMPACT?

While the rollout of initial cannabis products has been rocky at times, the pot market has proven to be quite lucrative. But edibles are expected to quickly overtake the market now that they have been legalized.

Since the first wave of legalization, 11 per cent of Canadians say they already consume edibles with 13 per cent expected to buy legal edibles. A recent Deloitte report suggests that edibles and alternatives will be worth $2.7 billion a year in Canada — making up 60 per cent of the legal cannabis market.

Tilray’s Fabiani-Carter explained this is because “people are moving away from combustible forms of consumption.”

WILL EDIBLES BE AVAILABLE ACROSS ALL OF CANADA?

No. Cannabis edibles such as pot brownies, candy or baked goods won’t be available in Quebec.

Quebec’s junior health minister Lionel Carmant told CTV Montreal in July that “the first thing we need to take care is our public health before economical issues.”

With this in mind, Quebec will permit some products that don’t appeal to children such as edible cannabis oil and butter. Carmant argued topical creams — used for medicinal use — should only be prescribed by doctors.

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