On December 20, 2018, the Federal Government revealed its proposed regulations for phase two of cannabis legalization: edibles, including beverages; extracts; and topical cannabis.
And while legalization leaves a lot to be desired, the proposed regulations are not necessarily all that bad.
The biggest point of contention - and this is to be expected - is where it comes to edible and drinkable cannabis products. Each individual product is limited to 10 milligrams of THC per package. This means that products can either be an individual product with 10 milligrams of THC in it, in one package, or several products with smaller concentrations of THC.
The reason for the contention is simple: many cannabis users either want or need more than 10 milligrams of THC in order to feel the effects of the product or get the desired result. This is hard to do when the product is limited to 10 milligrams. With Health Canada's packaging requirements, this will mean that those users who need multiple packages of edible products will generate a great deal of waste.
This is a legitimate concern. However, there are other edible forms of cannabis consumption that could mitigate this. For example, THC in capsule form permits up to 1000 milligrams of THC per package, with each capsule permitted to contain up to 10 milligrams individually. So users could supplement an edible product with a capsule in order to achieve the desired outcome.
There is also the option of making your own cannabis edibles.
Environmental concerns aside, the biggest flaw in the cannabis edibles regulations is that they will allow the black market to flourish. Given that black- or grey-market edible cannabis products that contain much, much higher concentrations of THC are already readily available, it is extremely unlikely that we will see people moving away from reasonably-priced, accessible cannabis edibles for an option that costs more, is more difficult to access, and does not have as much THC.
From a legal standpoint, the fact that this is being done by regulation makes it easy for the government to change it at any time. So it appears, at least in their draft form, that the cannabis edibles regulations appear to mimic the sage advice given first-time cannabis edible users: start low, go slow.
Other aspects of the edible restrictions are not surprising. Cannabis edibles, extracts, and topical products cannot be mixed with nicotine or alcohol. There are significant limits on the amount of caffeine that can be mixed with cannabis products, which is only permitted in circumstances where the caffeine is naturally occurring. No caffeine additives are allowed.
The edible restrictions also require that the products be shelf-stable. The reason for this remains unclear, however, it may be because children have easy access to a refrigerator while cannabis products placed on a higher shelf may not be readily accessible. This would minimize the risk to children.
Unsurprisingly, the products must be in child-resistant and plain packaging. Any flavours that may be appealing to children must not be listed on the label. However, this does not prevent flavoured products, provided there are no added sugars, sweeteners, or sweetening agents. The product cannot advertise that it is flavoured.
Products are also not permitted to be appealing to children in their form. So no using a food product that is packaged or looks like a "familiar food product" or candy. It is unclear at this stage what exactly is meant by a familiar food product. It is difficult to make a brownie not look like a brownie, or a chocolate bar not look like a chocolate bar. However, this will be something that will have to be sorted out through regulation.
There is also a restriction on the use of meat, poultry, or fish products in conjunction with edible cannabis. However, there is an exception in the case of dried products. So it would be theoretically possible to sell a beef jerky that contains 10 milligrams of THC. However, canned or tinned foods are prohibited from containing THC due to the risk of botulism. This appears to be disconnected from science, as the botulism risk arises from low temperatures during the extraction process or products that are not stored at a correct temperature after extraction.
But remember, there is a ban on refrigerated products. So that makes a boatload of sense.
Some of the scientific logic behind the proposed edibles regulations makes little sense. However, as far as cannabis regulation in Canada's legal scheme goes, this is certainly not the worst. Cannabis edibles will be available and for naive users, accessible in low concentrations as people find their bearings using these products.
Overall, while the draft regulations have a ways to go, they are a good start. If you agree or disagree, you have until February 20, 2019 to share your input.
Vancouver Criminal Lawyer with a focus on impaired driving, cannabis legalization and related issues, and immediate roadside prohibition defence.