Rules around cannabis edibles need to be set, says industry expert

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As Canada prepares to legalize edible products containing cannabis, an industry expert says it's important for regulators to get the rules around the packaging and dosages of edibles set as quickly as possible.

Edible cannabis, cannabis extracts and cannabis topicals will become legal no later than Oct. 17.

"As the days tick by, that becomes ever more of a challenge for the market to react quickly enough and not have any kind of disruption when the new rules go into effect, to make it clear what will be required of industry when the time comes," Tom Adam told CBC's Information Morning. He works with BDS Analytics, a Colorado-based company that specializes in cannabis market research.

Health Canada released draft regulations in late December and allowed for two months of consultation. The final regulations haven't been released yet.

Colorado, where cannabis is legal, tightened its rules around edibles in September 2017 after the popularity of the products raised red flags. Products with kid-attractive shapes that might look like candy were prohibited. The state also required more information on the potency of psychoactive ingredients to be displayed prominently on labels.

Doctors in Nova Scotia have raised concerns about accidental poisoning if children get their hands on THC-infused products.

Edible cannabis, cannabis extracts and cannabis topicals will become legal in Canada no later than Oct. 17.

A cannabis business was raided earlier this month in Timberlea, N.S., where Lego-shaped edibles were confiscated.

Adam said it was the bad press around edibles that changed things in Colorado, "photos of pretty packages of colourful gummies on shelves."

Impact on Colorado hospital admissions

He said there has also been a slight increase in hospital admissions with people complaining of eating too much cannabis product.

"It's hard to tell if that's because it's now legal and people will feel more comfortable going to the hospital in regards to it, or whether it had anything to do with too strong a dosing of the product, and not clear enough packaging.

"There are some apocryphal tales of kids getting their hands on gummies, from mom's purse or the kitchen cabinet, but that's more folk legend than lots of documented cases. But, clearly, in a state of millions of people, I'm sure it did happen."

Adam said while the traditional pot brownie is one of many edibles now legally available in Colorado, the popularity of the gummy has driven "substantial growth" of legal cannabis sales.

Black market unlikely to stop

Given the popularity of edibles, Adam said it's reasonable to assume a black market for the product may continue even after the introduction of the legal edible product on Canadian store shelves.

"One thing the regulators often ignore is the illicit market is run by business people," said Adam. "And business people react to consumer demand, and will take steps to capitalize on it whenever they can."

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