Food For Thought: Canada's Lessons on Cannabis Edibles

Cannabis edibles

Edibles regulations are have substantial effects on the food industry. Source

The Ramifications of Canada's Edibles Policies

The food industry is a major guardian of public health, so any regulatory changes can cause ripple effects across the public health domain. The change in policy relating to cannabis edibles has had a strong effect across the food industry, and needs to be carefully managed to meet the needs of customers while still ensuring strong standards.

Edibles as a delivery system for cannabis come with their unique sets of pros and cons. One of the main concerns specific to cannabis in edible form is that it can easily lead to overconsumption or accidental consumption of the drug, which makes this form of cannabis consumption of special interest to lawmakers concerned with public health.

Another round of legalisation is predicted to occur on October 17, and edibles will feature highly in both the discussions and the creation of public policy. It’s not an area to take lightly – aside from the potential health ramifications, according to Arcview (a marijuana market research company) the edibles industry of Canada and US will be worth $4.1 billion by 2022. To cope with the massive variety of edible products that will soon become legally accessible to the public, there is a need for an intricate framework that specifically addresses concerns raised about edibles.

Dr. Jürgen Rehm, a senior scientist at the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research at CAMH echoes that the concerns surrounding edibles require highly sensitive solutions. “In other jurisdictions, which legalised marijuana just like the states in the U.S., one of the problems, [with] legalizing edibles were kids. So kids came into the kitchen, saw this wonderful nicely coloured marijuana edible and as kids do, try it out.” Children unintentionally ingesting edible cannabis products is a major concern for policy makers.
.
Canada’s proposed edibles policies, which have been published by Health Canada, are a product of a 60-day consultation process that was concluded just recently. The government's public health agency is currently reviewing the consultation reports to assess their feasibility and efficiency. The consultation amassed over 7000 responses concerning edible issues from Canadians, industry thought leaders, health regulators and the public health community.

 
Where Drafted Regulations Got it Right

The elements of the 60-day consultation process.

The elements of the 60-day consultation process. Source

The proposed edibles bill has some high points:

  • The drafted regulations have a limit of 10 milligrams of THC -- the psychoactive compound in the product -- for each single serving. This is generally considered a moderate dosage of THC and should limit people accidentally overconsuming.
  • The draft also stipulates that each serving must come in a separate wrapper. These dosage and serving regulations are stricter than those deployed in other adult use states, including Colorado, California and Washington. In these places, the limit on the quantity of THC per serving is much higher, and a pack can contain multiple servings.
  • Also, the proposed policies prohibit the use of alcohol, and limit the use of caffeine in the products.
  • There are also several stipulations pertaining to the packaging, including that packages must be child-resistant and must not appeal to children. The products must also not be marketed in a similar manner to regular confectionery products.

 

The Shortfalls of the Proposed Regulations

While the regulations are an honest attempt to prevent overconsumption and accidental consumption, they might actually boost the illicit black market. Customers may still turn to the black markets to get around the limits on the dosage and servings specified in the proposed bill. As such, the bill might fail to address the issue of overconsumption effectively.

This negative dynamic not only keeps the problem of overdosing open-ended, it also could undermine the regulated market, making it difficult for licenced outfits to remain profitable.

Edibles do not tend to effect users as quickly as smoking cannabis products, meaning users may be inclined to consume more and more edibles in an attempt to reach a high as soon as possible.

Many heavy users will be less attracted to the regulated markets, where products are more expensive and a limit is imposed on the amount of THC they can consume per day. Cannabis health experts believe that the high tolerance level in heavy consumers will prevent them from sticking to the licenced outlets for their supplies.

Many experts are calling for a re-evaluation of the limits in order to redirect demands away from the black market. While the current limit can help prevent overconsumption, a higher limit could help keep users away from the illegal market. Other regions will need to pay close attention to how the limits imposed by these regulations affect the population, and whether the increase in safety is worth the number of people who could turn to black market goods.