Let’s protect kids from perils of edible cannabis
Earlier this month, a four-yearold girl in Nova Scotia was hospitalized and released after eating 15 squares of a chocolate bar infused with marijuana. The recommended dose for an adult is one square per day.
As Canada moves steadily toward cannabis legalization, the incident offers a reminder that information campaigns and regulatory frameworks — including proper labelling of edibles with THC content, intoxicant warnings, and strong recommendations for storing the products away from children — will play a critical role in ensuring that legalization works in the best interest of all Canadians, including children.
First off, let’s be clear. Possession of edible pot products is still illegal in Canada. Bill C-45, which addresses the regulation, sale and cultivation of recreational cannabis, does not come into force until Oct. 17. At that point, Canadians over the age of 18 will be able to legally purchase and consume marijuana and to make edibles for their own use. The sale of marijuana edibles won’t be legal until later on.
As it stands, the federal legislation permits the possession of up to 30 grams of legal cannabis or its equivalent in public; the sharing of up to 30 grams of legal cannabis or its equivalent with other adults; the purchasing of dried or fresh cannabis and cannabis oil from a provincially licensed retailer or — in provinces and territories without a regulated retail framework — online from federally licensed producers; the growth, from licensed seed or seedlings, of up to four cannabis plants at home for personal use; and the making of edible cannabis products at home for personal consumption, provided that organic solvents are not used to create concentrated forms of the drug.
In June, Quebec passed its law detailing how legalized marijuana will be regulated in the province. Thus far, Quebec will only permit marijuana sales through government stores, the Société québécoise du cannabis. Once the sale of edibles becomes legal federally, the SQDC will sell them provided the Quebec government also authorizes their sale. This is not a given.
Canada has been looking to other jurisdictions for lessons on marijuana legalization, including on the matter of edibles.
Uruguay, the first country to legalize recreational marijuana nationwide, has very strict regulations and does not permit edibles. On the other hand, the U.S., where nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use for adults over the age of 21, has a massive amount of product diversification. In certain states, it’s legal to package edibles to look like candies.
As others have argued, there is risk in making cannabis products directly appealing to children. Fortunately, there are no plans for Canada to go down this road. Yet.
I say “yet’ because marijuana edibles are expected to be a massive growth industry in Canada. They may also represent the future of cannabis consumption, as McMaster University’s Mike DeVillaer has argued. He expects people to eventually turn away from smoking or vaping the drug. The signs certainly point in that direction.
Small producers to big cannabis companies, marijuana edibles — and drinkables, such as cannabis infused wine and beer — are chasing opportunities for big profit.
Last year, the U.S.-based alcohol conglomerate Constellation Brands bought almost 10 per cent of Canada’s largest marijuana company, Canopy Growth Corp., for $245 million.
Obviously, when talking about keeping marijuana out of the hands of kids, legalization isn’t the only issue at play. Children, like the young girl in Nova Scotia, are coming into contact with marijuana products even now.
As recreational cannabis is legalized, brought into the mainstream and made more readily available in Canada, we would be wise to start paying more attention to the implications of edibles. Information and prudence will be key.