Seeing Green: Canada Misfires on Edibles

Monday, June 24th 2019
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Let’s agree that cannabis regulations should both support companies which try to play by the rules and protect consumers. With North America’s industry so fractured, rulemakers should also try to build on the best practices of other markets.

Canada’s new rules are sure to be a hassle for companies while adding minimal value for consumers. Additionally they force the industry across North America to reassess a status quo that was working pretty well.

Inevitably when edibles arrive in a new market lawmakers and regulators make a show of concern. They have no choice. Edibles include brands consumers will recognize, and taking them in excess can result in a very unpleasant experience.

The turning point year was 2014. In April, Denver man Richard Kirk consumed an edible and it apparently led to him having a psychotic episode. Kirk got into his gun safe and fatally shot his wife while she was on the phone with 911.

Then in In June, the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd wrote her infamous column about a miserable episode in a Denver hotel room, after she ate a THC infused chocolate bar.

Since then large markets like Colorado and California have required REC edibles packages to be limited to 100 mg of THC total, with the contents easily divisible into 10 mg portions. Companies and jurisdictions have adopted PSA slogans like “Start low, Go slow.”

Canada’s new rules could force new markets to go back to the drawing board. As Jesse Staniforth explains in WeedWeek Canada, Canada’s new rules will limit edibles to 10 mg of THC (the rough equivalent of one alcoholic drink) per package. The result is likely to be a hassle for companies, and perhaps also an opportunity for price gouging.

The industry’s stock response to regulation it doesn’t like is to say it will energize the illegal market. In this case, the criticism is likely valid. And unregulated edibles are probably a more significant threat than other products, since it’s impossible to tell if they are uniformly dosed.

Another inane rule Canada is implementing is the ban on cannabis drinks which evoke alcoholic beverages. Other than forcing a handful of companies to rename their variations on beer and wine things like “sparkling beverage with THC,” it’s unclear what this will achieve. (I’m not aware of any market which allows products containing alcohol and THC.)

There are so many aspects of the cannabis industry which require close attention from regulators. Canada’s rules all but ensure edibles will take up more time across the continent, without yielding an improvement for anyone involved.

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