New pot-infused food rules a hit with industry insiders

Industry insiders are giving the thumbs-up to Canada’s new draft regulations on marijuana-infused food items, still not legal but expected to become so next fall.

Recently released, the much-anticipated rules on three new classes of cannabis – edibles, concentrates and topicals – impose restrictions on packaging, require strict controls on manufacturing and limit the amount of THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana, allowed in each dose.

A two-month public consultation period is now open before edibles are legalized by October, Health Canada said.

Shirley Toms of Canada Compliance, a cannabis consulting firm, called the fall timeline doable, noting it’s unlikely to get pushed back as was the legalization of recreational marijuana use, first promised by the federal Liberal by July 1, but delayed until Oct. 17.

“The ground is prepared,” she said, noting Canadian officials have studied U.S. states where edibles are allowed.

“They’ve been watching what’s going on in Colorado, for example, and testing where the successes came from and where the challenges arose,” said Toms, a senior quality and regulatory consultant.

“It feels like a comprehensive, thorough, thoughtful approach.”

Cannabis edibles have long been available through the black market, where everything from gummy bears and chocolate bars to chips and soda infused with marijuana, is available.

Consumer spending on cannabis-based food and drink is projected to reach $1.5 billion in the U.S. and Canada this year, according to a report by ArcView Market Research and BDS Analytics.

Many first-time cannabis users will be drawn to edibles, Toms said, because they offer more discretion and less stigma than smoking pot.

The head of a cannabis industry group also praised Health Canada’s draft regulations, saying the debut of the new products will deal a blow to the black market.

“We have an association in our society with combustion and a higher risk of harm,” said Allan Rewak of the Cannabis Council of Canada, an industry group representing many of the country’s pot producers.

“So the introduction of vape pens, with reasonable dosage control, and edibles will be really positive in migrating the illicit user over to the legal market.”

Rewak singled out a rule in the 195-page draft report that limits the amount of THC to 10 milligrans per edible and per package. The problem isn’t the dose limit – Denver has the same cap – but rather the requirement that each 10-mg dose must be packaged separately, he said.

“It’s just going to create . . . a lot of waste,” Rewak said. “With the supply challenges we’re facing, all that extra packaging takes time and makes it harder for us to meet that supply challenge. That’s the one thing we’re really going to be encouraging the government to reconsider during the regulatory consultation.”

Toms also was critical of the packaging requirement, noting cannabis is being treated differently than alcohol.

“It seems to imply . . . a lack of trust of consumers’ ability to self-monitor. That doesn’t exist in the alcohol industry,” she said.

Inhaled cannabis extracts will be sold in packages containing no more than 1,000 mg of THC, while concentrates will be limited to no more than 1,000 mg of THC per package.

The draft rules for edibles and extracts

  • Must not require refrigeration or freezing
  • Must list ingredients and best-before date
  • Edibles or beverages containing THC can’t include alcohol
  • Caffeine can’t be added (naturally-occurring caffeine in items such as coffee permitted)
  • Extracts can contain flavouring agents, but not sugar or sweetener
  • Flavours that appeal to youth are banned on packaging and labelling of extracts
  • Products can’t make health or dietary claims
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