Hard THC caps, separate buildings for food and cannabis edibles, no “weed wine” advertising – the proposed regulations for edibles and extracts are finally here, giving the cannabis, cosmetics and food industries their first road map for the next wave of marijuana legalization.
A version of Health Canada’s regulations were released Thursday, and will be officially published in the Canada Gazette on Saturday. Canadians now have 60 days to comment on the draft regulations. Online consultation will be open until Feb 20, 2019, and the federal government has until Oct. 17, 2019 to implement the new regulatory regime.
Here are some key takeaways from the proposed regulations:
- THC Limit: There will be a limit of 10 milligrams of THC per discrete edible, and a limit of 10 milligrams of THC overall in a package. “This would mean, for example, that a package could contain one discrete unit of edible cannabis that contains 10 milligrams of THC; or two discrete units that each contain 5 milligrams of THC.”
- No cannabis ice cream: Cannabis edibles will need to be shelf-stable. That means products requiring refrigeration or freezing will not be allowed.
- Decaf allowed, but no energy drinks: We won’t have full-blown cannabis coffee, but it appears decaf will be allowed. Ingredients with “naturally occurring caffeine,” such as tea, chocolate or coffee, will be allowed, as long as “the total amount of caffeine in a package does not exceed 30 milligrams.” Caffeine additives won’t, however, be permitted, ruling out something like cannabis-infused energy drinks such as Red Bull.
- Don’t call it beer or wine: “Weed Wine” and “Canna-Beer” are out, meaning companies will have to think up creative names for their infused drinks. “Representations that associate a cannabis product, its packaging or its labelling (including its brand element) with an alcoholic beverage” is prohibited. Alcohol company logos also won’t be allowed, so don’t expect Labatt-branded Tilray drinks or Molson Coors-branded beverages from Hexo.
- No weed bacon, but maybe jerky: Meat, poultry and fish will be mostly prohibited as ingredients. There’s an exception, however, for dried meats, poultry or fish products, "provided they are obtained from a person who is authorized to produce such products ... and that they have a water activity of 0.85 or less at the time they are obtained.”
- No Weight Watchers for weed: Edible products won’t be able list health or nutrition benefits. “For example, it would be prohibited to say that edible cannabis is suitable for people with diabetes, or as part of a low-calorie diet.”
- No gummy bears or Easter eggs: Health Canada doesn’t explicitly mention gummy bears, but it prohibits “the sale of cannabis products or cannabis accessories that have an appearance, shape or other attribute or function that could be appealing to young persons.”
- THC Limit: An individual unit filled with a cannabis extract, such as an oil capsule or a vaporizer cartridge, cannot contain more than 10 milligrams of THC. A package of extracts – a bottle of oil capsules, for example – can’t contain more than 1,000 milligrams of THC. “This would mean, for example, that a package could contain 100 capsules of an extract that each contain 10 milligrams of THC; or 200 capsules of an extract that each contain 5 milligrams of THC.”
- No sweeteners: No sugars or sweeteners can be added to extract products. Some “flavouring agents” will be allowed, but only if they’re “necessary to maintain the quality or stability of the cannabis product.”
- No vaping flavours appealing to youth: For vaporizer products, companies can’t advertise flavours that might be appealing to youth “such as dessert or confectionery flavours.”
- THC Limit: No more than 1,000 milligrams (or 1 gram) of THC is allowed per topical package. A topical is something “intended to be used on external body surfaces i.e., skin, hair, and nails.”
- No cosmetic claims: Companies won’t be allowed to advertise cosmetic benefits, such as “reduces the appearance of wrinkles” or “softens skin.”
- Follow existing guidelines: Topicals can’t contain ingredients “that may cause injury to the health of the consumer when the product is used as intended.” Companies should consult Health Canada’s Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist to learn what ingredients are prohibited for cosmetic products in general.
- Licencing: Standard processing or micro processing licenses are required to manufacture edibles, extracts and topicals and to package and sell them to final consumers. Beyond this, no special approval is required from Health Canada.
- Separate kitchens: To reduce the possibility of cross-contamination, cannabis edibles can’t be made in the same building as regular food production. Instead they need to be made “within another building within the licensed site.”
- When to test: Companies will have some flexibility as to when they conduct final microbial and chemical contaminant testing for edibles and extracts. “For example, if a cannabis extract is used in the production of a cannabis topical, the licensed processor would have the option of conducting testing on the cannabis extract or on the final form of the cannabis topical.”
- Change to contaminants rules: Instead of working within limits established by herbal medicine regulations, allowable levels of microbial and chemical contaminants for cannabis products will be set in a manner “appropriate for the intended use of the product (e.g., ingestion, inhalation).”
- Increasing quality assurance: Companies will need to bolster their ability to recall products, conducting a “recall simulation” once a year “to evaluate the effectiveness of their recall systems and processes.” A company’s Quality Assurance person will also have new responsibilities, being required to proactively “conduct an investigation any time they suspect that cannabis or an ingredient may present a risk of injury to human health.” That could be triggered if the QA person finds ingredients improperly stored.
- Public possession limits: Because THC levels can be more concentrated in edibles and extracts than in dried bud, public possession rules will be stricter. “The maximum package size and public possession limit of 7.5 grams (equivalent to 30 grams of dried cannabis) would apply to edible cannabis, cannabis extracts, or cannabis topicals that contain more than 3 per cent” THC by weight.