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Cannabis Edibles Shouldn't Appeal to Kids, Say Canadian Regulators

By Alexander Beadle

Published: Jun 22, 2019   
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Health Canada has finalized and released its new regulations for the new cannabis products set to enter the legal market this fall – and the rules are already confusing some producers. 

While recreational cannabis has been in Canada since last October, currently only dried cannabis flower and cannabis oil products are actually allowed to be sold in the country. For other popular cannabis product types, such as edibles, cannabis concentrates, and infused topical lotions, the federal government set itself a deadline of October 2019 to introduce regulation and get the products introduced to the legal marketplace. 

In December 2018, the Canadian government launched a public consultation to gather feedback from citizens and stakeholders on a set of draft regulations proposed for these new products. From this feedback, Health Canada says, the final changes were made to make the set of rules that have been announced this month. 

Child-proofing the industry 

The recently unveiled regulations for these products place a clear emphasis on making sure that cannabis products stay out of the hands of minors, with child-resistant packaging being required across the board. Additionally, all of these new products, whether they are edibles, extracts, or topicals, must also “not be appealing to youth” with respect to their packaging or the general appearance of the product. 

The vagueness of this particular instruction has led to some head-scratching from those in the industry, who aren’t sure whether the products they’re considering will make the cut.

Speaking to Bloomberg, cannabis lawyer Trina Fraser highlighted concerns raised by the ambiguity of the regulations, “A cookie is appealing to a kid, so can I make a cookie? Can I make a brownie? What do you mean by appealing to kids?”

At a media session on Friday, June 14, a representative from Health Canada said that cannabis gummy sweets, chocolate, or baked goods could still be developed in keeping with these new rules, so long as the coloring, shape, flavor, and branding of the product are considered carefully. 

“I would suggest that it’s not a difficult thing to determine,” the official said, according to Bloomberg. “Think of chocolate bars on the market today: there are chocolate bars that are designed and marketed to adult consumers and there are chocolates and candies that are marketed to kids.”

She continued, “Maybe your gummies are going to have to be square and clear, not red and yellow and orange and green and bear-shaped, but they’ll taste the same and you’ll have the same outcome and effect, it just won’t be deemed to be appealing to kids.”

While the new provisions come into effect on October 17, licensed producers who are looking to sell these new product types in the legal market must submit proposed products for approval at least 60-days before the product starts to be distributed. Product approval will be done on a case-by-case basis, to ensure that no products with “youth appeal” erroneously enter the legal market, and no proposals are automatically rejected simply for being a gummy or a cookie. 

Companies that are found to be making products that break this “not appealing to children” rule could find themselves facing up to $5 million in fines.

Product strength restrictions draw praise and criticism

As well as introducing limits on the appearance of these new products, Health Canada has also proposed a potency cap for edible products. Each single-serving package of cannabis edibles will only be allowed to contain up to 10 milligrams of THC, regardless of how many individual pieces are in the package. This limit rises to 1000 mg of THC for packages of topical lotions and vape products. Oral cannabis extracts will be subject to both restrictions, with 10 mg of THC being the maximum allowed in a single capsule, but with a maximum of 1000 mg total THC being allowed to be sold per package. 

The edible THC cap has gathered some praise for its cautious nature, with the THC limit addressing safety concerns raised over accidental consumption and over-consumption. Though some in the industry think that the proposal is overly cautious, could lead to increased waste, and doesn’t do enough to cater to people who want to use these products medicinally.

“The 10-milligram limit is the equivalent of selling alcohol only in little airline bottles to stop people from getting too drunk,” said legalization activist and cannabis retailer Dana Larsen, to the Vancouver Sun. “We are treating cannabis 10,000 times more severely than alcohol, which is clearly the greater risk to health and public safety.”

“All these little portions individually wrapped is really going to create a lot of extra packaging and waste,” he said. On the topic of medical cannabis use he added, “I guess it’s fine to say people can eat more than one piece, but I have cancer patients who use 500 milligrams in suppositories a day and no one wants to put 50 things up their butt.”

Other important restrictions

There are a number of other important measures included in the new regulations. Product packaging is to be relatively plain, with the product branding restricted to just one logo. Packaging will also be required to carry prominent health warnings, as prescribed by Health Canada. Cannabis-infused drinks will also be prohibited from containing alcohol, or using any alcohol-related terminology on their packaging; so there will be no non-alcohol “canna-beers” openly branded as IPA- or lager-like.

As well as not allowing alcohol as an ingredient, the new regulations also prohibit products from containing any added vitamins, minerals, or nicotine. Caffeine is also not supposed to be added, but Health Canada has said that they will set a caffeine allowance for products that naturally contain caffeine, such as chocolate.

The full 288-page text of the final regulations can be found online, and is also expected to be published in the June 26 issue of the official government magazine, the Canadian Gazette.

Alexander Beadle

Science Writer

Alexander Beadle has been working as a freelance science writer since 2017 and has covered the cannabis industry for Analytical Cannabis since 2018. He has also written for our sister publication, Technology Networks, and the cannabis industry consultant firm Prohibition Partners, among others. Alexander holds a Master's in Materials Chemistry from the University of St. Andrews, where he won a Chemistry Purdie scholarship, and conducted research into zeolite crystal growth mechanisms and the action of single-molecule transistors.


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