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Preparing For Cannabis Legalization 2.0 – Edibles, Extracts, and Topicals

Canada is officially set to embark on its second-wave of cannabis legalization. On June 14th, 2019, Health Canada released their final Regulations for new cannabis products, which will see cannabis edibles, extracts and topicals enter the market for recreational use. The Regulations will come into effect on October 17th, 2019—exactly one year after government legalized the use of dried flower and oils. But don’t mark your calendars just yet—these new products aren’t expected to hit the market until at least December 2019.

If you’re a foodie and a cannabis enthusiast (or maybe you’re just looking for an alternative to smoking), the idea of having your pot and eating it too probably sounds like a dream combination. If you’re like me, this may evoke candy shop-like images of walls lined by confectionary favourites—chocolates, and lollipops, and gummies, oh my!

But Health Canada has been clear that its number one priority is the health and safety of Canadians, particularly children and youth, and not to incite or promote the use of cannabis products (sorry to harsh your buzz). For this reason, consumers can expect to find only a limited selection of strictly regulated products available for sale through the legal market.

What’s in, what’s out

Health Canada released draft regulations for public and stakeholder consultations in December and after receiving roughly 7,000 submissions, save for a few minor tweaks, the proposed regulations stand.

No ice cream, energy drinks, or alcohol

While government deliberated over their final regulations of cannabis edibles and other additional products, industry mused over the seemingly endless possibilities for infused products. One such company, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, long-know for its stoner-hinting flavours, announced just weeks prior that it would consider producing a CBD infused ice cream. Unfortunately, these icy dreams have been quashed with the requirement that all infused products must be shelf stable—no perishables allowed—meaning commercial cannabutters are also off the table.

As well, government wants to keep a hard line between cannabis and alcohol and tobacco or nicotine making these combinations strictly prohibited. While cannabis and caffeine can cross paths, this combination will only be permitted for products with naturally occurring caffeine (i.e. coffee, tea, and chocolate).

Cannabis cafes—maybe?

Health Canada has left the door open to whether cannabis consumption sites (or cannabis cafes) will be permitted, leaving it up to individual provinces and municipalities to decide. However, under the current framework, there is no pathway by which restaurants will be able to serve meals containing cannabis to the public, the primary roadblock seemingly an aversion to cannabis and alcohol being consumed at the same site.  

Limits to THC

Despite some industry concerns around wasteful over-packaging and consumer dissatisfaction, Health Canada will stick to their guns in limiting each unit of cannabis edibles to 10mg of THC per package. Cannabis extracts, such as oils, will be given a restriction of no more than 1,000mg (or 1g) of THC to a single package, as will topicals, such as lotions.

CBD notably absent

CBD products and cannabinoid-containing products, while included in the definition of cannabis under the Cannabis Act, will not be subject to the same controls as THC according to the final regulations.

With this, CBD remains largely unregulated, creating great potential opportunities for industry looking to specialize in CBD infused products. While only time will tell how CBD will be regulated in future, at least for now, Health Canada is listening to industries appeals to have these products classified as a natural health product and have committed to engage in public consultations to better understand and decide on how to best regulate these currently in limbo products.

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