Canadians should expect a small initial offer of cannabis when they become legal in mid-December, and a limited range of products will not include goods that could attract children, government officials say.
Health Canada has published new regulations on cannabis, beverages, topicals and extracts today – products that will be on the legal market by mid-December.
Officials say regulations – including stringent packaging and labeling requirements – are designed to limit the attractiveness of cannabis products and reduce the risk of foodborne illness or excessive consumption.
Products will require packaging resistant to children and children, and products must not be "attractive to young people".
Minister of Border Police Security and Reduced Organized Crime Bill Blair, a liberal government official on documentation of cannabis legalization, said security was on the top when the government drafted regulations.
"I heard from the industry and people say," You know, we could make more money if we did or abandoned these regulations. "But, frankly, this is not our motivation," he said during the events in Coquitlam, BC Friday.
"Our motivation is, and will always be, to protect our children, protect the health and safety of Canadians, to keep our community safe and to push the illegal market that has developed for decades in this country."
Blair warned that black market buying is "shit" because consumers can not be sure of the power or purity of the product. Black market products may contain insecticides, pesticides or fertilizers that are not suitable for human consumption, he said.
"We substitute those illegal products, they are far more risky products, with a safer product, with a regulated product," he said.
"Youth appeal" is not allowed
In a statement to reporters on Friday, Health Canada officials say the proposed products will be judged for taste, color, shape, smell and branding to determine if they can be tempting for children.
Items will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis – and it's not clear where the lines will draw.
"If you're asking if a rubber beast likes a young person, would that be allowed, the answer is no," one official said in response to a question about what would or would not be approved for sale.
"A stinking bear that is attractive to children is forbidden … and it's an act that is punished with very serious consequences … five years in prison and one million dollars in fines."
The ban on the sale of products referring to young people and related restrictions is similar to the laws governing tobacco and vaping products.
The NDP's medical critic Dav Davies has accused the government of pulling the heels to legalizing the edibles, leaving it in the hands of the black market. Canadian businesses are more difficult if they could be "gang busters", such as in jurisdictions like California, he said.
There is no reason to wait
"There is no reason not to go ahead with edibles on a political basis, for health reasons and finally for business reasons," he said.
Officials say the licensed industry will need time to devise and build its inventory before it receives government approval.
"As such, adult consumers should expect that a limited selection of products will appear in stores at the beginning, while additional products will become available over time," one official said.
Health Canada has said it can not predict how much time it will take for a larger and more diverse choice of products on the market. As of July 15, existing federally regulated processors can apply for healthcare Canada to make sure they can sell their products and can advise the Department of Proposed Products from October 17th.
They can then make these products available for sale 60 days later.
In order to limit unwanted reactions due to accidental consumption or excessive consumption, each individual package will be limited to a maximum of 10 mg THC, primary psychoactive components in cannabis. Officials said that, although cannabis smoking may have an almost immediate effect, cannabis consumption may take up to four hours to take effect, and the effect may last much longer.
They also warned that chronic use of cannabis can have serious health consequences, such as addiction and memory or loss of concentration.
Awareness campaign has been called
Conservative health critic Marilyn Gladu said some of the children in the US had been rushed into emergency rooms "poisoned" by excessive consumption or by accidental cannabis use. She called on the government to launch a massive awareness campaign ahead of the legalization of the edibles.
"We need to get product education there so people can understand how to keep them away from children," she said.
When dry cannabis became legal for recreational use last October, the government continued consultations on rules for edibles and other products that ended in February.
New regulations will allow authorized distributors and retail chains access to three new classes of cannabis products:
- Edibles (sweets, pastries).
- Cannabis extracts.
- Cannabis "topicals" (fats, oils, makeup).
Alcoholic beverages and cannabis products containing cannabis and tobacco, nicotine or caffeine are prohibited. Some goods with small amounts of natural caffeine, such as chocolate, will be allowed.