Government regulator Health Canada says there are unique potential health risks associated with cannabis-infused edible products that have to be properly understood before they are made legal, and that only dried and fresh cannabis and cannabis oil, along with seeds and plants for personal cultivation will be allowed.
“It is the Government's intention that, upon coming into force of the proposed Cannabis Act,” a representative for Health Canada told Lift last week, “only dried and fresh cannabis, cannabis oil as well as seeds and plants for personal cultivation will be made available for legal purchase. The Governor in Council would have the authority to add other classes of cannabis, such as edibles, to the list of categories of cannabis authorized for sale.”
“Within this new legal framework, ‘modes of delivery’ is a dimension that would be considered during the regulatory development process, which includes consultations with Canadians.”
“With respect to edibles specifically, should the Cannabis Act come into force, the Government will develop and publish regulations to permit the sale of edible products. Designing an appropriate regulatory system for cannabis edibles is a complex undertaking. There are unique potential health risks and harms that need to be carefully understood before the development and coming into force of these regulations. Regulatory oversight for these products would include measures to protect public health and safety, such as standardized serving sizes and potency, child-resistant packaging requirements, and standardized health warnings.”
Despite this, many licensed medical cannabis producers in Canada are working on other novel modes of delivery beyond just dried cannabis flowers, fresh cannabis (which no one actually sells, yet) and cannabis oil. CanniMed is developing a ‘canna wafer’ and CannTrust is developing a Keurig-like disposable coffee pod infused with cannabis. Tweed recently announced their new soft gel caps and Hydropothecary currently offers pre-milled, pre-decarbed cannabis for putting into capsules.
Emblem Cannabis has recently engaged a lobbyist to discuss ‘advanced dosage forms’ with various levels of government, although the cannabis producer remains tight-lipped about what these might entail.
Many advocates say if the government doesn’t make edibles legal, the public will simply rely upon the already thriving black market. Cities like Vancouver and Victoria that have sought to regulate the illicit retail dispensaries in their jurisdictions have also begun disallowing edible products. Vancouver’s own regulations ban edibles outright, while allowing for ingestible oil. Victoria’s rules don’t specifically disallow edibles, but say the authority lies with Vancouver Island Health, which has recently cracked down on edibles as well, citing public health concerns.
Access to children is only one concern for the government when it comes to regulating edibles. Concerns with consistent and reliable dosing are also a major issue in the US, where edibles often entered newly legal markets with little initial oversight. Food products in Canada are regulated by both the federal government through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and provincial and territorial health bodies. Aligning and addressing the needs and concerns of these various agencies in terms of packaging, recalls, nutritional information, best before dates, and public health concerns can be a challenge.
The federal government’s task force on cannabis legalization recommended federal regulations to regulate cannabis edibles and noted that Colorado officials shared with them that a lack of regulation around edibles in the early days of legalization led to some unintended public health consequences.
“In weighing the arguments for and against limitations on edibles, the majority of the Task Force concluded that allowing these products offers an opportunity to better address other health risks. Edible cannabis products offer the possibility of shifting consumers away from smoked cannabis and any associated lung-related harms. This is of benefit not just to the user but also to those around them who would otherwise be subject to secondhand smoke.”
The task force report also noted many in the medical cannabis industry in Canada are advocating for rule changes to the current medical regime to allow for “a wider variety of cannabis products such as edibles, concentrates and tinctures.” It notes there would also be an associated cost to inspect and enforce the regime.