One year ago today, on October 17, 2018, Canada made world history by becoming the second country on earth to legalize a right to buy and possess cannabis on a legal, regulated marketplace. And on the anniversary of that event, history is repeating itself across Canada. Today, edibles and cannabis derivatives like extracts and concentrates are finally legal. But as happened a year ago, legalization doesn’t immediately mean for sale. Across Canada, cannabis consumers sometimes had to wait months for brick-and-mortar retail businesses to open in their area. Similarly, even though edibles are officially legal in Canada, they’re still not for sale. For that, consumers will have to wait at until mid-December at the earliest.
Recreational Edibles and Extracts Market on Hold as Businesses Meet New Requirements
If you’ve been buying cannabis on Canada’s legal marketplace, you know your options have so far been limited. Licensed retailers have only been able to sell flower and flower-based products like pre-rolls. It’s a little-known caveat outside of Canada that last year’s historic law, the Cannabis Act of 2018, only legalized flower. But it also set up a deadline for Health Canada to develop regulations for retail edibles and extracts products, products that have always been available to Canada’s medical cannabis patients.
Still, extracts and edibles products have been widely available on Canada’s widespread and embattled illicit network of cannabis “pharmacies” and pop-up shops. And it will be interesting to see how the illicit industry responds now that licensed, regulated retailers can finally compete in a popular product category.
Back in June, as continent-wide public health concerns surrounding vaping were just beginning to emerge, Health Canada published finalized rules and regulations for cannabis derivative products. Those rules take effect October 17, as worries about the risks of unregulated cannabis products, especially THC cartridges are mounting in Canada.
But the press release announcing the new regulations also said “it will take time, after that date, before new cannabis products become available for purchase.” That’s because Health Canada is requiring a 60-day heads up from any licensed companies or license applicants that they intend to produce or retail derivatives. The agency says that window gives regulators a chance to inspect businesses and ensure they’re up to the new codes.
Recreational Cannabis Market Will Transform in December
So that 60-day window puts the earliest availability of edibles and extracts at December 17. And at that moment, Canada’s recreational market transform. Consumers will be able to access products that had only been available from unlicensed retailers and medical cannabis dispensaries. Those products include cannabis-infused beverages and foods, topicals, dabs, vapes, oils, capsules and more.
The only thing consumers might find frustrating are the THC limits on the new products. THC limits were hotly debated as Health Canada drafted the new regulations. Initially, officials wanted to cap products at 5 mg per serving, a very small amount. The finalized rules cap edibles and drinkables at 10 mg THC per serving, while other product categories like oils and tinctures can have up to 1000 mg THC per package, so long as a “dose” or unit is labelled at 10 mg.
There’s also another odd rule that could pose confusing for consumers and law enforcement alike. Manufacturers and retailers have to provide “herbal equivalents” on product labels, telling consumers what the product would equal in terms of dried flower. Health Canada says that requirement is so cops can determine if someone possesses more than the legal limit, which is 30 grams of dried cannabis in most provinces. But given how much THC quantities vary across strains and especially across extract products, figuring out that equivalency could prove tricky. Going forward, expect Health Canada to come up with possession limits specifically for edibles and other derivatives.