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Canadian Health Officials Recommend Limiting THC in Edibles to 5mg

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse wants to further limit the THC cap in edibles.

A.J. Herrington

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Canadian Health Officials Recommend Limiting THC in Edibles to 5mg
Bobkov Evgeniy/ Shutterstock

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse has called for THC limits for edible cannabis products to be set at a maximum of 5 milligrams per package. The recommendation is part of a brief submitted to Health Canada as the federal health agency develops regulations for marijuana edibles and extracts, which are scheduled to be legalized in Canada later this year. The country legalized cannabis flower and oils for recreational use and sale in October of last year.

Under current regulations for medical marijuana products, cannabis edibles are capped at 10 milligrams of THC per package. But the CCSA, an agency that was created by Parliament to provide national leadership to address substance use, believes that the maximum allowed should be lowered for several reasons. The CCSA brief notes that edible products can be unwittingly ingested by children or adults who are not aware they contain THC, that edibles carry a risk of over-consumption because of the increased time for ingested THC to take effect, and “the duration of impairment associated with the increased duration of effect when THC is ingested rather than smoked.” A smaller unit size would also allow for more selective and accurate dosing, according to the brief.

Protecting Public Health

Rebecca Jesseman, the director of policy for the CCSA, said in a press release this week that cannabis regulations should be developed cautiously and from a public health perspective.

“Taking a public health approach to regulating cannabis applies the same principle as taking a harm reduction approach to using cannabis: Start low and go slow,” Jesseman said.

The statement noted that “cannabis containing high levels of THC is associated with greater health risks and harms, including increased levels of impairment, dependence and experience of psychotic episodes.”

In a television interview, Jesseman said that the recommendation would protect children who accidentally consume cannabis edibles.

“A five-year-old gets to a chocolate bar that only has 5 milligrams of THC they’re not going to be in as scary a medical situation as if they had eaten a chocolate bar with 50 to 100 milligrams of THC,” said Jesseman.

The CCSA hopes to avoid a situation like the one experienced in Colorado when unregulated THC levels in edible products caused a 50 percent jump in calls to the poison control center for marijuana exposure in children in the first year of legalization.

In addition to the 5 milligram THC limit, the brief from the CCSA also included recommendations for public education and the packaging and labeling of cannabis products. The agency acknowledged that some may find the recommendations to be very strict, but said that it would be easier to relax regulations in the future if they are deemed too tight than it would be to make them tighter.

“Beginning with more restrictive regulations and providing opportunities to expand them over time is easier and less costly to industry than trying to impose more restrictive regulations should there be unanticipated negative impacts,” the brief reads.

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