For Canada’s recreational cannabis consumers, a long-awaited day is just on the horizon. On October 17, 2019 one full year after Canada’s world-historic legalization of cannabis went into effect, licensed companies will finally be able to produce and sell edibles and other cannabis derivatives, such as extracts and topicals. So far, consumers on the non-medical retail market have only had access to flower. As a result, many consumers have continued to turn to unregulated, illicit retailers for edibles, vape cartridges, and other non-flower products.
Regulations for Edibles and Derivatives Take Effect Tomorrow
Postponing the production and sale of cannabis edibles and other derivatives has always been part of Health Canada’s plan for rolling out the Cannabis Act of 2018. National and provincial regulators wanted extra time to develop specific rules and regulations for non-flower products. They also wanted time to solicit feedback from Canadian consumers and stakeholders. At issue has been the question of THC limits for edibles and derivatives, rules for product ingredients, packaging and labeling and restrictions on anything that might appeal to children.
Health Canada finalized those regulations in mid-June this year and published them shortly after. And in a press release, the agency stated that the new and amended regulations would come into force on October 17, 2019. “However,” the release continues, “it will take time, after that date, before new cannabis products become available for purchase.”
In other words, even though edibles and other cannabis derivatives become legal in Canada this week, it will still take, at minimum, 60 days before consumers can actually purchase them from licensed retailers. So that puts edibles and derivatives on shelves, at the earliest, by mid-December. At least that’s just in time for holiday celebrations.
The reason for the delay, according to Health Canada, is a requirement mandating federal cannabis license holders to provide a 60-day notice to Health Canada of their intent to sell new products. Health Canada also says the lag is needed to give give regulators time to familiarize themselves with the new rules. But regulators have had access to the amended product rules since June.
Quick Rundown of New Product Categories and Their Restrictions
Soon enough, however, Canada’s cannabis consumers will be able to buy cannabis extracts across four categories. There will be edibles, including both foods and beverages, ingestible extracts like oils and capsules, extracts for inhaling, like vape cartridges and dabs, and topicals for applying to skin, hair and nails.
All of the product categories have many rules in common. There can be no added vitamins or minerals, no nicotine or added alcohol and strict limits on levels of caffeine. All products must come in packages that are plain, child-resistant and provide detailed, comprehensive labeling about ingredients, allergens and intended use.
Interestingly, Health Canada is also requiring companies to label their extract and derivatives products with their “equivalency to dried cannabis.” The purpose of that metric is so law enforcement can determine whether someone possesses more cannabis in public than the legal limit, which is set in grams of dried flower. That rule could prove tricky, since extract products often contain very high levels of THC, which means possessing a small amount of concentrate could equate to a very large and thus unlawful amount of dried flower.
Then, there are the THC limits on new products. THC limits were one of the most contentious and criticized issues around the amended regulations. Eatable and drinkable cannabis products will have a 10 mg THC per package limit, which is not very high. Ingestible extracts like tinctures, however, can have 1000 mg THC per package, with individual units (like a capsule) capped at 10 mg.
Extracts for inhaling also have a 1000 mg THC limit per package, so vape cartridges are good to go. Topicals can also have up to 1000 mg THC per package.
Retail Edibles and Cannabis Derivatives Could Shake Up Canada’s Industry
So far, edibles, concentrates and other extract and derivatives products have only been available for medical cannabis patients in Canada. The impending introduction of those products to Canada’s young legal retail market, which is still battling with an entrenched illicit marketplace, could have a dramatic impact on Canadian cannabis companies like Aurora Cannabis and Cronos Group.