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As Health Canada prepares to finalize regulations governing cannabis-infused foods, drinks and vape products, a new industry group is forming to fight for fewer pot-based beverage restrictions.

The Cannabis Beverage Producers Alliance, which will be led by former Nova Scotia premier Darrell Dexter, is set to be unveiled Wednesday morning at an event in downtown Toronto, with ten member companies to start. Unlike other cannabis-related industry groups, co-chair Lisa Campbell says the CBPA membership is a combination of alcohol producers, cannabis companies and industry advisers with far more specific policy goals.

“There really is a need to advocate for beverages in particular,” said Ms. Campbell, who is also CEO of Lifford Cannabis Solutions, one of the CBPA’s founding member companies. “For example, one way that the draft edibles regulations have specifically affected beverage producers was they previously thought they would be ready for Oct. 17, but now they have had to push things back and it is going to cost millions of dollars.”

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With the final rules expected to be released publicly this summer, priority number one for the new group will be pushing regulators to allow cannabis-infused beverages to be produced in the same facilities as alcoholic drinks. The draft rules released in December include requirements for cannabis-based production to occur separately.

“We are already very familiar with producing controlled substances like alcohol, so there is no reason why we shouldn’t be able to handle cannabis as well,” Ms. Campbell said.

The draft rules also restrict any branding similarities to existing alcohol products, which Ms. Campbell calls “beyond ridiculous” and says that will be the group’s second major priority.

“We aren’t even sure if they will allow traditional-looking wine bottles in stores because that might be too similar to an alcohol product,” she said. “And instead of saying lager, which is what we’d like to say, we have to instead say our product is a cannabis-infused wheat-fermented malt-flavoured beverage.”

Longer term, the CBPA is hoping to push for cannabis-infused beverages in restaurants, but for now, the group is focused on influencing the basic regulations before the writing is dry. Aside from Lifford, founding companies include Hill Street Beverage Company, Province Brands, Truss Beverages, Cannabis Compliance, CanBev, Collective Arts Brewing, VinFirst Innovative Packaging, Lakeside Process Controls and Global Public Affairs.

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