Article by Sylvain Charlebois, The Globe and Mail
On Oct. 17, smoking cannabis will become legal in Canada. As for cannabis edibles, they will take a bit longer: Cannabis-infused food products will be legal in a little less than a year’s time.
Once edibles are available, things will get complicated in Canada’s food industry. But, with the right regulations, this is a profit opportunity that doesn’t come by every day.
Initially, Bill C-45 did not include edibles. It was only last fall, when the parliamentary health committee decided that edibles would need to be included as well if the country was going to adopt a comprehensive approach to legalized cannabis. According to a recently published survey from Dalhousie University, 93 per cent of those favourable to the legalization of marijuana are also very likely to try at least one edible product. Recognizing this possibility, the parliamentary committee approved a neat little amendment and, voilà, edibles became part of the package.
The food industry is a $200-billion sector. It is a massive portion of our economy, split into multiple streams. Food retailing, food service, delivery, food trucks, institutional services, arenas, stadiums – there are channels of distribution everywhere, and food can get to wherever you are. In less than a year, this will include cannabis – except that, unlike the smokable version, edibles can be consumed by anyone without those around them knowing. It’s discrete, convenient – and potentially dangerous.
Health Canada was caught by surprise by the additional legalization of edibles, and is still trying to come up with an appropriate regulatory framework. Many questions linger about the distinct dangers that edibles pose, particularly for children. Food companies are notoriously paranoid about food-safety issues, since they are always just one recall, outbreak or tragic incident away from closing their doors. All it takes is one child eating a cannabis-infused product, and the damage to that food company would be irreversible.
It is critical that a regulatory framework be put in place, which would include proper labelling of edibles, complete with THC content and intoxicant warnings, to assure both the public and industry that edibles and humans can co-exist safely.