Experts Criticize Canada’s Proposed Cannabis Edibles Regulations

In cannabis-legal Canada, some of the regulatory framework is still being hashed out.
Experts Criticize Canada's Proposed Cannabis Edibles Regulations

Critics of Canada’s proposed cannabis edibles regulations say the rules would result in unappetizing and over-packaged products, according to media reports. When marijuana was legalized in Canada last year, initial regulations only allowed cannabis flower and oil to be sold. Since then, regulators have been creating rules for cannabis edibles, extracts, beverages, and topicals.

Health Canada released the draft regulations in December and has been accepting feedback during a consultation period that ended on Wednesday. The federal health agency expects to have the final version of regulations in place by October 17, the first anniversary of legalization.

But provisions in the draft regulations require that products not be appealing to children and prohibit packages from advertising dessert or confectionary flavors. They also must be shelf-stable and not “encourage overconsumption.” Although Health Canada has confirmed that ingredients such as chocolate and sugar will be allowed, edibles must not feature ingredients, shapes, colors, flavors, packaging, or labeling that would appeal to children. Jessika Villano, the owner of Buddha Barn dispensary in Vancouver, fears that the rules will mean tasty products won’t be permitted.

“They’re proposing that we sell sand,” Villano said. “I think a lot of adults would like to have cannabis sugar in their tea.”

‘Environmental Nightmare’

Additional proposed rules stipulate that no more than 10 milligrams of THC are allowed per edible serving and that each serving must be sold separately in child-resistant packaging. With some medical marijuana patients taking doses of 500 or even 1,000 milligrams of THC daily, Villano fears that the cost and all of the packaging will become overwhelming.

“I feel that Health Canada is creating an environmental nightmare,” Villano said.

Andrew Grieve, the CEO of cannabis edibles manufacturer Zenabis Global Inc. said that his company had plans to produce multi-serving packages in an effort to reduce packaging.

“We’ve been working really hard to reduce our packaging overall,” Grieve said. “We’ve been making progress on that point. From a corporate social responsibility standpoint, we think it is very important to reduce packaging wherever possible.”

Tammy Jarbeau, a spokeswoman for the health department, said in a statement that the rules were intended to prevent accidental consumption and lessen the appeal to youth and challenged the industry to devise compliant packaging.

“Health Canada welcomes licensed processors to use innovative and environmentally sound packaging approaches, provided the requirements in the regulations are satisfied,” she said.

Yannick Craigwell of edibles company Treatsandtreats offers products for medical cannabis patients with up to 220 milligrams of THC. He fears that the over-regulation of cannabis will enable the illicit market to continue to survive.

“If there’s a need, people are going to fill that need. If there’s a financial reward for filling that need, that’s the whole premise of the black market,” Craigwell said.

Bruce Linton, the CEO of Canopy Growth Corp., said that despite the criticism, “in the context of how governments normally work, this is astounding. The government of Canada has come up with how you can drink and eat and vape cannabis and are regulating it at a federal level and are selling it through provincially controlled stores. Are you sure we’re not making all this stuff up?”

While Vilano has made her concerns known during the consultation period, she isn’t convinced that regulators will take them into account.

“I don’t feel like anybody’s been listening. I feel a little bit deflated, actually,” she said.

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