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HIGHLIGHTS
  1. Health Canada will look at shape, colour, smell, flavour and packaging to determine if an edible is appealing to young people.
  2. Gummies will be allowed, but companies should tread carefully.
  3. Restaurants won’t be able to cook and serve their own infused dishes, but consumption lounges have not been ruled out.

Think Skor or Lindt rather than Skittles or Oh Henry, Health Canada officials seemed to suggest on Friday, when speaking about how to make edibles that are not “appealing to young persons.”

The officials did not use specific brand names during a technical briefing that accompanied the release of the final regulations for edibles, extracts and topicals. They also said that Health Canada would not be issuing specific guidelines on what it considers “appealing to young persons” to mean. However, they encouraged companies to look at existing chocolate and confectionary brands for guidance.

“You can think of chocolate bars on the market today; there are chocolate bars that are designed and marketed to older, adult consumers, and there are chocolates and candies that are marketed to kids. What we really are encouraging the industry to do, and what they're required to do by law, is to make sure that they are producing those cannabis products for the adult market and not for kids," said an official.

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While no checklist will be issued, the official did say that Health Canada will be taking a holistic approach to determining whether or not a product is appealing to young people.

"Its shape: is it shaped like a bear? Its colour: is it a bright primary colour? Is it fluorescent? Its smell, its flavour, what its called, how its packaged, how its labelled, and how its presented to consumers. It's a consideration of all of those factors… [Do you] look at it and conclude, that's clearly a product that has been designed with all of those different features to be appealing to kids?"

The official was clear that gummies, the most popular edible format in most U.S. states with legal recreational markets, will be allowed.

After Oct. 17, there will be a 60-day “new product notification” period, where LPs will be allowed to submit product information to Health Canada. It “is not a pre-authorization or pre-approval for sale,” the official said. However, Health Canada may provide some feedback during the period.

LPs "don’t need to submit the actual product, but they have to submit a description of it and so on. That is something Health Canada would look at obviously. If in that notice it sounds like there’s a risk that the product would be appealing to young people, and be in contravention of the act, Health Canada would reach out to the producer and make sure they understand their obligations under the act, and really make sure they know what they need to do to be in compliance.”

People that contravene the rules and sell edibles that are appealing to children face up to three years in prison and a $5-million fine.

Edibles restaurants unlikely, but consumption lounges not ruled out

Health Canada officials also confirmed on Friday that the final regulations were not designed to open the door to restaurants serving cannabis infused drinks and edibles.

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The rules do not prohibit edibles being sold in specific places; that’s up to the provinces and territories to decide. But as one official said, “the framework that has been constructed does not permit restaurants to prepare and serve meals containing cannabis to the public.”

At the point of sale, cannabis-infused edibles have to be packaged in childproof containers with proper health warnings and excise stamps on the packaging. This makes it impossible for a restaurant, even it became a provincially licensed dispensary, to use cannabis in their cooking.

Nothing in the new regulations, however, prohibits consumption lounges.

“Could you walk into an establishment, purchase a product containing cannabis and consume it on site? ... That, under the framework, would be something that would be determined by local governments, provinces and territories, working with municipalities,” the official said.

“In that scenario, with a consumption site or a consumption lounge, you would be need to be authorized to sell cannabis by the province or territory, and you could only sell cannabis products that had been manufactured by a federally licensed processor, and packaged and labelled accordingly, and meeting all the other regulatory requirements.”

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