On October 17th of 2018, Canada legalized recreational cannabis for adult use, blazing a trail that’s sure to be followed by other countries. But between all the headlines of 'historic firsts' and behind all the pot-related puns involved in news coverage for the new law, few articles gave more than a cursory mention that the new law did not regulate cannabis-infused topicals, concentrates, or edibles; effectively making joints legal, but keeping pot brownies illegal.
But now, less than three months into the new law (and amidst product shortages and production gaps), the government has released a report proposing new marijuana edible regulations in Canada.
None of the recommendations in the report are law (yet), but it does give us civilians some answers as to why Canada didn't legalize edibles right away and a taste of the marijuana edible regulations they are cooking up in Ottawa.
Why the Delay in Regulating Edibles, Concentrates, and Topicals?
Apparently, the marijuana edible regulations in Canada were delayed in order to address the public health and safety risks posed by edible cannabis, cannabis extracts, and cannabis topicals.
But the government also created a Task Force to establish of a comprehensive framework for the legalization and regulation of cannabis across five main themes:
- minimizing harms of use
- establishing a safe and responsible supply chain
- enforcing public safety and protection
- medical access
In order to make thoughtful recommendations about marijuana edible regulations in Canada, the Task Force consulted with provincial and territorial leaders, Indigenous governments, as well as experts in public health, substance use, criminal justice, law enforcement and industry.
Focus of Cannabis Edible Regulations
The government isn't taking any chances with questionable ingredients, mislabeling, or marketing towards children when writing marijuana edible regulations in Canada. In particular, some of the current proposals aim to protect public health and public safety by reducing the:
- Appeal and risk of accidental consumption of edible cannabis especially by youth
- Risk of overconsumption associated with edible cannabis (because of the delay in experiencing the effects of cannabis from ingestion) and/or use of cannabis products with a higher concentration of THC
- Risk of foodborne illness associated with the production and consumption of edible cannabis
- Potential health and, in some cases, safety risks associated with the use of certain solvents, carriers, and diluents.
Recommended Edible Regulations
As part of a comprehensive guideline for edible, topical, and concentrate regulation, the government is proposing a series of changes to the current cannabis laws.
First and foremost, the new marijuana edible regulations in Canada recommend adding three new classifications to cannabis; cannabis edibles, cannabis extracts, and cannabis topicals. After those broad strokes, the recommendations start to get more specific, proposing:
- A THC limit on edibles and extracts – 10 mg of THC per package
- Limiting food additives in edibles – including a ban on added vitamins and caffeine
- Strict regulations on labeling edibles – mandatory list of ingredients, allergy warnings, 'best-before' date, and cannabis specific NFT (Nutrient Facts Table)
- A guideline for standardized potency testing of THC and CBD products
And in an effort to curb incidental cannabis use by youth, it has been proposed that the amended regulations would prohibit the following representations on all product packages and labels:
- Representations regarding health benefits, including those that are currently permitted on food, such as "a healthy diet low in saturated and trans-fat may reduce the risk of heart disease", or "oat fiber helps lower cholesterol" (all classes of cannabis)
- Nutrient content representations which go beyond those permitted in the list of ingredients and cannabis-specific NFT, including those that are currently permitted on food, such as "high source of fiber" or "low fat", or additional information pertaining to the vitamin or mineral content of the product (edible cannabis only)
- Representations regarding cosmetic benefits, such as "reduces the appearance of wrinkles" or "softens skin" (all classes of cannabis)
While such strict advertising rules may seem a tad 'anti-business' to your average American, most Canadians prefer their government to have a bias toward public health.
"These proposed regulations under the Cannabis Act support our overarching goal of keeping cannabis out of the hands of youth and protecting public health and safety," says Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Canadian Minister of Health
Benefit and Cost Analysis
The federal government ran the numbers and concludes that changing the marijuana edible regulations in Canada will result in a net benefit to the country; economically and socially.
It’s estimated that the proposed amendments to the regulations would result in a net cost to Canadians of approximately $40.5 million (Canadian) net present value, in 2017 dollars.
The government goes on to note, that even with the initial costs; the qualitative benefits attributed to displacing the illegal market and providing adult consumers and registered clients of licensed sellers of cannabis for medical purposes with access to quality-controlled edible cannabis, cannabis extracts, and cannabis topicals can be expected to outweigh the net cost to Canadians of the current regulatory proposal.
Food for Final Thoughts
Some of the confusion surrounding the (still) illegality of cannabis edibles in Canada has been the presence of medical marijuana products that are edibles or concentrates. So far, none of that has changed; medical patients still have access to any THC-infused edible, topical, or extract they did before.
And if you’re not a medical cannabis patient, you’ll need to be patient as the marijuana edible regulations in Canada are still being written. But don't fret, after a nibble of proposed regulations, it looks like the Canadian government is headed in the right direction.