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Health Canada sets guidelines, release date for marijuana edibles

Marijuana edibles are an alternative way to ingest cannabis.
Marijuana edibles are an alternative way to ingest cannabis. - 123RF Stock Photo

Canadians can expect to see some cannabis edibles, concentrates and topicals on shelves just in time to put them on their Christmas lists.

The federal government unveiled the timeline and new suite of regulations for the second-wave of cannabis legalization on Friday.

Although the amended regulations will come into force on Oct. 17, 2019, a limited selection of products will appear gradually in physical or online stores no earlier than mid-December 2019 as federal licence holders will need to provide 60-day’s-notice to Health Canada of their intent to sell the new products, and distributors and retailers will also need time to stock them.

The new regulations cover four categories of cannabis products: edibles, like baked goods or beverages; ingestible extracts, like cannabis oil and capsules; inhalable extracts, which are usually referred to as concentrates and can include things like wax and vaping liquid; and topical products like ointments and lotions.

The new rules

Consumers can already purchase ingestible cannabis in the form of oil and oil capsules legally, Health Canada officials said that category will be absorbed under the new extracts classification, but will continue to be available in stores.

Under the new rules, edible cannabis will only be able to be sold in packages containing a maximum of 10 mg of THC, with no nicotine or added alcohol and limits on caffeine. They must be in child-resistant packaging, shelf stable, and non-appealing to children as well as contain ingredients and nutritional information.

Cannabis extracts can have no more than 10 mg of THC per unit or 1,000 mg of THC per package and can contain no added vitamins or minerals, nicotine, caffeine, sugars, sweeteners or colours, but flavours are allowed. (Currently, any cannabis oil products must only contain THC and/or CBD and the carrier oil). All products packaging must include the standardized cannabis symbol for products containing THC, a health warning message, and the THC/CBD content.

Additionally, the new regulations prohibit any elements in these products that could associate them with alcoholic beverages or brands.

Don't hold your toke for a cannabis cafe

Because edible cannabis products can take up to four hours for the user to feel the full effects, which can last up to 12 hours, Health Canada is reminding people to start with low dosages, and avoid mixing with alcohol and nicotine, especially since the effects tend to be stronger than with inhaled cannabis.

“The amended regulations under the Cannabis Act will support our overarching goal of keeping cannabis out of the hands of youth and protecting Canadians by helping to mitigate the health risks posed by these new cannabis products,” said federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor in a press release.

In a media briefing, Health Canada officials also shot down hopes of cannabis cafes and cannabis-infused fine dining in Canada, as the framework does not allow restaurants to prepare and serve cannabis meals to the public.

Because the new regulations require all edible products to be shelf stable, and be packaged in a childproof package with an excise stamp officials said it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where a restaurant could sell cannabis products.

Thomas H. Clarke, owner of Thomas H. Clarke’s Distribution, a cannabis retailer in Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s, said there’s been lots of interest from customers about the new wave of products.

Clarke said he expects edibles, extracts and topicals make up about 30 per cent of the market once fully rolled out.

“I think there's a lot of people who are anti-smoking anything who would like to try cannabis recreationally,” he said.

Clarke also said dosing in black market edibles and concentrates can be very unreliable.

“Knowing that it’s controlled and that it’s an exact dosage is big for a lot of people,” he said.

And for those with arthritis or other joint and muscle problems, THC and CBD infused topical creams and ointments can help them get the pain-relieving benefits of cannabis without any psychoactive effects.

From what he’s gleaned by talking with licensed producers and others in the cannabis industry, Clarke said it’s likely concentrate pens and cartridges, essentially prepackaged extracts that can be vaporized in a special e-cigarette type of device, will be the first products available.

“With edibles, even though they say they will be available the middle of December, I think it's going to be even longer. I’d say we're looking at March before a lot of the big companies roll out their products,” he said. 

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