Let’s pro­tect kids from per­ils of ed­i­ble cannabis

The Province - - EDITORIAL - CE­LINE COOPER Ce­line Cooper is a colum­nist with the Mon­treal Gazette, where this col­umn first ap­peared.

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.

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