The Task Force released over 80 recommendations to the Liberal government that will likely guide legislation on the legalization and regulation of marijuana in Canada. Among the recommendations, was permitting the sale of marijuana-based edibles and topicals. If Ottawa agrees with the Task Force recommendations on edibles in Spring of 2017, when legislation is slated to be tabled, the new laws and regulations on edibles (and other products) are likely to set in motion the emergence of a lucrative marijuana-based edibles and topicals industry in Canada. It’s worth emphasizing that while the government says they plan to introduce legislation in spring 2017, the new laws might only come into effect in late 2017, or in 2018.
Under the current medical ACMPR program, the government only permits the production and sale of fresh and dried marijuana and marijuana oils and capsules. Although the sale of marijuana based edible and topical products are currently restricted, the regulations do permit medical patients to infuse their edibles with marijuana to make products such as baked goods, for their own consumption.
Nonetheless, the illicit market continues to thrive, offering a wide array of edible and topical products through dispensaries and online/mail order retail options. The government needs to carefully consider this issue moving forward, as many of these widely available products contain ingredients such as high THC, and have production, packaging and labelling processes that are unregulated, which can put Canadians at risk. “Edible products have emerged as a focal point in our discussions, given their variety and increasing popularity, as well as their particular risks.” said the task force in their report.
The Task Force also heard, “Since legalizing cannabis, the states of Colorado and Washington have seen sustained growth in their cannabis edibles markets. In Colorado, sales of cannabis-infused edibles in the first quarter of 2015 were up 134% from the same period in the previous year.”
“Colorado officials acknowledge that a lack of regulation around edibles in the early days of legalization led to some unintended public health consequences. Their experience provides the Task Force with a number of specific “lessons learned””
The Task Force report on Cannabis-based edibles and other products stated:
- Expect edibles to have a broad appeal. Cannabis products such as brownies, cookies and high-end chocolates are attractive to novice users and those who do not want to smoke or inhale. Colorado’s prohibition on public smoking also gave a boost to the edibles market.
- Control for level of THC and/or portion size. In some respects, it is easier to control the amount of THC ingested when smoked or vaporized compared to when it is eaten. This is because, unlike the more immediate euphoric and other psychoactive effects produced by smoking or vaporizing cannabis, it can take several hours for THC given orally to take full effect. In Colorado, this has sometimes resulted in accidental over consumption and overdoses. (A cannabis overdose is not known to be fatal, but can be unpleasant and potentially dangerous – including severe anxiety, nausea, vomiting, a psychotic episode, or hypotension and loss of consciousness.) Controlling the amount of THC (or other cannabinoids) in a product, as well as establishing a standardized serving size, is important to avoid or limit such incidents.
- Ensure that cannabis edibles can be clearly distinguished. It can be a challenge to differentiate between cannabis edibles and cannabis-free products, leading to a risk that individuals, including children, inadvertently consume them. Since legalization of cannabis, Colorado and Washington have seen an increase in calls to poison control lines and in emergency room visits.
Having considered a wide range of stakeholder viewpoints, which included the perspectives of public health professionals, the Task Force put forth the following recommendations to the federal government:
- Prohibit any product deemed to be “appealing to children,” including products that resemble or mimic familiar food items, are packaged to look like candy, or packaged in bright colours or with cartoon characters or other pictures or images that would appeal to children
- Require opaque, re-sealable packaging that is childproof or child-resistant to limit children’s access to any cannabis product
- Additionally, for edibles:
- Implement packaging with standardized, single servings, with a universal THC symbol
- Set a maximum amount of THC per serving and per product
- Prohibit mixed products, for example cannabis-infused alcoholic beverages or cannabis products with tobacco, nicotine or caffeine
- Require appropriate labelling on cannabis products, including:
- Text warning labels (e.g., “KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN”)
- Levels of THC and CBD
- For edibles, labelling requirements that apply to food and beverage products
- Create a flexible legislative framework that could adapt to new evidence on specific product types, on the use of additives or sweeteners, or on specifying limits of THC or other components
The marijuana-based edibles and topicals market in Canada – is likely to have significant ramifications, if the government takes into consideration the framework recommended by the Task Force on the legalization and regulation of marijuana in Canada.
A future regulated market has the potential to reduce public health risks associated with an unregulated illicit market, and would have substantial economic potential, via the radical reconfiguration of an existing underground system into a new paradigm and a new era.
By Marijuana.Ca Staff