On Thursday, October 17th, 2019, the Canadian government officially legalized cannabis edibles, topicals, and extracts. Although finally legalized, Canadians will have to wait until December or early 2020 in order to actually purchase THC-infused products online or in-store. On top of that, Health Canada imposed a two month waiting period for licensed producers to provide a notice of intent to sell new products.
Deloitte estimates that Canada could create an annual consumer market of $2.7 Billion for edibles and other alternative cannabis products. For cannabis edibles, topicals and concentrates, Health Canada made THC content restrictions per package. For each edible, there is a total limit of 10mg of THC permitted for each package. Back when I started working in dispensaries as a budtender in 2016, I’ve seen edibles contain as high as 300mg of THC in one package alone. As cannabis enthusiasts would walk into the dispensaries, they would be so excited to try highly concentrated THC edibles/products to see how high they would get.
“The vast majority of this burgeoning Cannabis 2.0 market will be cannabis extract-based products, including edibles,” the report states. Specifically, for the Canadian market, it expects edibles will account for about $1.6 billion of the annual spend, $529 million for cannabis-infused beverages, $174 million for topicals, $140 million for concentrates, $116 million for tinctures and $114 million for capsules.
I became a budtender back in 2016, before the ‘Project Claudia’ raids and when there were over 100 dispensaries in the Greater Toronto Area. Although dispensaries back then were illegal, it was still our job as budtenders to warn people of the effects of edibles, and to give dosage suggestions before consumption. I would suggest cannabis users try a small piece of an edible and wait to see how it would affect them first, before proceeding to higher doses. Most people would eat the whole 300mg edible in one shot, return back to the dispensary after getting ‘high as fuck,’ and come back to try more! Before cannabis products were legalized in Canada, the black market had a wide range of THC infused products at high dosages; gummy bear edibles would typically contain 50-100mg per package, cookies were 100-250mg, THC pop 100mg, and more.
Yes, by Health Canada requiring a maximum of 10mg of THC per edible, it can help avoid new cannabis edible users from ‘greening out,’ but for true cannabis connoisseurs, it may push them to purchase edibles from the black market or lead them to create their own products. I am also curious to see which edibles licensed producers will be selling, the price range, and the packaging.
Health Canada will allow edibles to have a maximum 30mg of caffeine, and that’s only allowed if it occurs naturally in the ingredients. THC beverages will be regulated as “edible cannabis” which sounds real appealing and creative…sike. Edibles can only contain a 0.5% alcohol content, and any association with alcoholic beverages is prohibited. I think it would be cool in the future to at least try ‘cannabis beer’ or wine, but I understand that introducing it instantly may not be the best idea. Any edibles that require refrigeration to prevent it from expiring will not be permitted. While I was working at the dispensaries, we would have to refrigerate the brownies, desserts and even gummy bears. Also, as far as the mass production of edibles along with the demand, producing edibles could be timely; considering they need time to be tested for quality control. I can recall gummies taking at least 24-48 hours alone to formulate and cool down.
Black market cannabis is typically $10 per gram, but most of the licensed producers charge $10-$12 CAD for a half gram (0.5) plus taxes alone for a preroll. For a full gram pre-roll, I’ve seen as high as $15-18 CAD (before tax). Luckily in Toronto, CAFE cannabis, a black market dispensary is still open. They offer 1 gram generous spliffs for $9-14 CAD on the strain with no taxes. At this rate, I would assume people walk into LP shops for pure convenience, especially since WeedMaps no longer allows black market cannabis businesses to advertise on their website/app. Ever since the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) launched last year with huge delays in shipping, along with product shortages, I have been wary of ordering online.
Back in the Project Claudia days, cannabis consumers were able to walk into a shop, show their IDs, smell and touch a wide range of strains, get edibles of their choice and make a personable connection with budtenders. Now, in my experience, it’s less personable, products aren’t attractive as far as branding, and it feels like I’m shopping at shoppers drug mart. If licensed producers were less focused on using cannabis as a cash grab and more focused on why cannabis consumers use cannabis, such as aiding their health, I believe they would be more successful. By adding incentives for consumers to buy, such as offering daily deals, they may not completely beat the black market, but they could at least be more competitive.
For cannabis extracts, Health Canada permits the addition of “carrier substances.” Substances that “are necessary to maintain the quality or stability of the cannabis product” will also be permitted. However, any substance that is added to an inhaled extract (e.g. vape cartridges) must have standard limits established in a pharmacopeia listed in the Food and Drug Regulations. Certain substances that are prohibited by the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act will also be prohibited in cannabis extracts. Health Canada will allow 1000mg of THC per extract package. Cannabis extracts will be permitted to have flavoring agents, but sugars, sweeteners or sweetening agents defined in the Food and Drug Regulations (FDR) are not allowed. Surprisingly for topicals, it’s allowed to have 1000mg of THC content per package. In the black market, you would see topicals contain 100mg-500mg of THC/CBD content.
As for my final thoughts, the fact that Canada is the first G7 country to legalize cannabis is a blessing. Although the advertising regulations are strict, the packaging is mundane, the products are expensive and the cannabis shops are far and few in Ontario. I have faith that as time goes on Canada will loosen up over time once more research is conducted. I am glad that the government of Canada is passionate about protecting its citizens and ensuring cannabis is not consumed by underaged teens/children. As CannTrust aims to regain the trust of Health Canada and Hexo offers four dollar cannabis grams to undercut the black market, I’m going to smoke my spliff and see how things unfold for Cannabis 2.0 in Canada.