Exactly one year after Canada legalized the recreational use of marijuana, new rules are now in effect governing the production and sale of cannabis edibles, extracts and topicals such as lotions.
Here is what you should know about the new regulations.
It’ll take some time before products appear on shelves
The earliest that consumers should expect to see new cannabis products – such as cannabis-infused food and beverages, body lotions and vaporizers containing THC extracts – in physical or online stores is mid-December, according to Health Canada.
That’s because producers will need to get their licences amended before they can begin making and selling the products, and distributors will need time to purchase and obtain the items.
Even when products do become available, the selection will initially be limited, Health Canada said, with more items being rolled out gradually.
THC content will be capped
For food products, no more than 10 mg of THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, is permitted per package. The rules also restrict the use of ingredients that could make cannabis more appealing, encourage people to overconsume and increase the risk of food-borne illness. Food products must also not be appealing to children, although the rules are rather vague on what that means.
“Something like a cookie would appear to be appealing to children, but it’s also important to consider that it’s going to be in packaging, and the packaging itself is going to be child resistant," said Sherry Boodram, chief executive of cannabis consultancy firm CannDelta Inc.
Many companies are proposing products such as cookies, candies, mints and gummies, Ms. Boodram said. “Health Canada realizes that it’s something that’s consumable and the taste is something that’s important, so it’s about finding a good balance."
For cannabis topicals, which include lotions and other cosmetic products, a maximum of 1,000 mg of THC is allowed per container. Capsules containing cannabis extracts are capped at 10 mg each, with a maximum of 100 mg per package (for instance, 10 capsules containing 10 mg each).
There will be strict rules around marketing
In addition to requiring that packaging must be plain, childproof and display the standard cannabis symbol, the regulations stipulate that companies can’t make health claims and other promises about the products. For instance, a topical product can’t advertise its ability to soften the skin, smooth out wrinkles, strengthen nails or restore hair growth – unless the company producing it has run clinical trials validating those claims.
Vape pens will enter the legal market
Just as vape pens containing cannabis extracts are poised to enter the market, Health Canada is warning consumers about the potential risks associated with vaping. The health agency is advising consumers to seek medical help if they experience symptoms such as coughing, chest pain or shortness of breath.
The warning comes in the wake of a number of severe illnesses and deaths related to vaping in the United States. Ms. Boodram said cannabis-containing vaping products in the U.S. are illegal, which adds to the potential risks.
“There is value in having a legal recreational industry in Canada," Ms. Boodram said. “The goal of Health Canada is to minimize or eliminate the black market and ensure the safety of Canadians, and by bringing those additional product forms under the cannabis regime in Canada, that’s the hope – that they’ll be able to reduce those types of dangerous risks.”
Your time is valuable. Have the Top Business Headlines newsletter conveniently delivered to your inbox in the morning or evening. Sign up today.