Cannabis edibles are officially legal in Canada on Thursday, exactly one year after possessing it in dried forms for recreational purposes was legalized.
However, interested consumers likely won’t be able to find edibles on store shelves until December at the earliest. Thursday is when licensed producers can start the process of sending their applications to Health Canada. The approval and procurement process is expected to take two to three months.
Cannabis-infused drinks, candy and baked goods, as well as lotions or balms that provide pain relief when cannabis is absorbed through the skin (known as topicals) are expected to hit the market.
There will be limits on the items. For example, a package of edibles cannot contain more than 10 milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the component in marijuana that gives users their high.
Health Canada guidelines state edible products must not be appealing to young people, which means many forms of edibles that most people associate with ingestible cannabis will be out of the running.
“The regulations are not extremely precise, but I think any licensed producer in Canada knows what they’re talking about. There will be no gummy bears, there will be no gummy worms, for example,” Cam Battley, Aurora Cannabis’ chief corporate officer, told the Edmonton Journal. He added that gummies in other shapes, or consumables like chocolates are still a possibility for retail.
Watch: Coca-Cola is reportedly developing a cannabis-infused drink. Story continues below.
Provinces can also further regulate how edibles, extracts and topicals are distributed and where they’re sold — whether through licensed retailers, a Crown corporation like the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation, or online. Quebec has said it does not intend to allow the sale of most cannabis edibles to prevent attracting children. Edible oils and butters that don’t appeal to kids may be permitted, CTV News reported.
“I encourage adult Canadians who choose to consume cannabis to remember to store it safely out of the reach of children and youth, and to consult the new evidence-based resources on Health Canada’s website that can support you in making informed decisions,” Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said in a June press release about the legalization of edibles.
That month, the Canadian Paediatric Society said it found 16 cases of serious “adverse events” involving kids and recreational cannabis between September and December 2018. Six of the incidents saw kids younger than 18 accidentally eating edibles; in each case, the cannabis belonged to a parent or caregiver.
The society defined an “adverse event” as one where a child is harmed by cannabis consumption.
Edibles are still potent
Edibles are a way to avoid the smoke and smell of marijuana, but they’re also a lot more potent with the effects of ingestion lasting much longer. Health Canada recommends people ingesting cannabis “start low and go slow.” If there is no immediate effect, it’s better to wait and see than to take more right away.
Inhaled cannabis can take mere minutes for the effects to kick in, and full effects can be felt within half an hour, says the agency. In comparison, the effects of ingested forms can take 30 minutes to two hours to appear, and the full effects may not be felt for up to four hours.
The effects of inhalation usually wear off after around six hours, while it can take around 12 hours for the effects of edibles to fade, Health Canada notes.
Regulations are expected to largely be the same as those for consuming cannabis in combustible form, including a ban on consuming them in public spaces and vehicles. Actually enforcing this could be a challenge though, since many edibles look the same as their non-cannabis counterparts.
Transporting cannabis across the border and driving while high remains illegal. Edibles and topicals must still be sold in plain packaging with health warnings, the same way dried marijuana is currently sold.
Health Canada warns that cannabis use can cause adverse effects like dizziness, anxiety, memory loss, nausea, psychotic episodes and seizures.
With a file from The Canadian Press
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