After passing the historic Cannabis Act last June, cannabis officially became legal for adults across Canada on October 17, 2018. But while the law allows all adults to purchase, possess and consume cannabis, it doesn’t initially legalize all cannabis products. For the first year of legalization, the Cannabis Act only permits the sale and use of botanical products like flower. “Additional cannabis products,” like edibles, extracts and topicals, though widely available on the unlicensed market, are slated for approval later this year. Now, Canadian officials are trying to figure out exactly what those rules should be. And in Toronto, a proposal has emerged to ban all cannabis-infused candy and flavored vapes.
Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Wants to Ban “Youth-Friendly” Cannabis Products
Despite some key differences between provinces, like the months-long delay on brick-and-mortar dispensaries in Ontario, legal weed is well underway across Canada. Yet anticipation is already building for changes to the law that will permit concentrates, edibles and other cannabis products. Public health officials, however, are still trying to figure out what the edibles market should actually look like. And if you ask Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen De Villa, it shouldn’t look anything like cute animals or delicious desserts.
In a report that will go before Toronto’s Board of Health on February 25, Dr. de Villa takes aim at “youth-friendly” cannabis products. In her report, de Villa outlines a proposal to prohibit any and all cannabis products that might appeal to underage individuals. “Drug-impaired driving, early initiation of cannabis use and frequent use are among the main public health concerns related to cannabis,” de Villa writes in the report. And cannabis products like gummy bear-shaped edibles and birthday cake-flavored extracts, de Villa says, contribute to those problems.
“The recommendations in this report provide regulatory actions the federal government can take to prevent youth exposure to cannabis products that encourage initiation of use, reduce accidental ingestion of cannabis products, reduce consumption of high-potency cannabis products, and highlight the need to collect information on the public health impact of cannabis legalization,” the report reads.
Canada Still Figuring Out Rules for Edibles, Extracts and Topicals
In other words, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health sees a ban on edible candies and flavored vapes as a means to protect children. And to that end, Dr. de Villa isn’t just proposing a ban on those two products; she is also calling for a ban on cannabis topicals that look like food and wants a prohibition on the use of cannabis for marketing purposes in movies, video games and “other media accessible to youth.”
The concerns behind de Villa’s recommendations are valid. Indeed, recent instances involving young children and high-potency edibles have highlighted the risks of accidental consumption. Yet some are questioning whether a ban on certain cannabis products can actually protect children and improve public health. There are countless fruit-flavored alcoholic beverages and candy-flavored e-cigarette juices, but those products aren’t facing bans.
Dr. de Villa’s recommendations are still up for debate, as is the entire question of how to regulate cannabis-infused foods, lotions, sublingual strips, candies and extracts. Canada’s federal government expects these additional cannabis products to become legal on the one-year anniversary of legalization on October 17, 2019. But as is the case with respect to the current rules on flower, provinces will have the authority to take their own approach.