There is a noticeable omission in the list of cannabis products approved in Canada’s Bill C-45. Cannabis edibles will be carefully considered by policy makers this year before they are included on the list of permissible products. That’s because policymakers are trying to avoid a common issue seen in many other places that have legalised cannabis edibles. Regulations on food consumption are usually carefully handled by policy makers, and the control of edibles will be managed with even closer scrutiny. However, with the right regulations in place, cannabis edibles can be safe and enjoyable, and open up highly profitable revenue streams for the economy.
As the number of cannabis edible products available on the black markets continues to skyrocket in anticipation of the imminent legalisation, nearly half of the businesses in the food industry are reluctant to take an open position on cannabis edibles. Initially, when Bill C-45 was first drafted, there was no mention of cannabis edibles. However, about a year ago, cannabis edibles received the attention of policy makers that not only identified them as another popular type of cannabis product, but also as one that requires a special regulatory framework.
The food industry is a massive part of the Canadian economy, contributing over $200 billion to the country’s GDP. It also branches out into several sub-sectors, from food retailing to events, culinary tourism and institutional services, for example. Because of the extensive impact, changes to regulation in the food industry can send ripple effects through several sub-sectors of the economy. Policymakers therefore need to carefully develop the regulatory framework to guide the introduction of edible cannabis into Canada’s food industry.
During his speech at the Lift & Co. Conference last May, Eric Costen, the director general of the Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Secretariat noted that the main challenge facing lawmakers in implementing effective regulations for edible cannabis is having to deal with the integration of a cannabis delivery system into a sensitive industry with “multiple moving parts”. Given that cannabis edibles serves up a discreet, inconspicuous way of consuming cannabis, they can be tough to regulate.
The Need for Proper Packaging
One of the main concerns of policymakers is the proper labeling on cannabis edible products to avoid accidental consumption, especially by children. These concerns aren’t far-fetched. After Colorado legalised recreational marijuana in 2014, the number of emergency calls relating to the accidental consumption of cannabis edibles by children nearly doubled. In 2015, Colorado addressed the worrying trend with a new regulation that requires companies to package marijuana edibles in child-resistant packages that also come with a universal symbol.
Given the sensitivity of the food industry, food companies in Canada know that they might be one food-safety issue away from shutting down their factories. As such, there’s no doubt about the need for a comprehensive policy framework on cannabis edible product labeling and packaging to prevent unintentional consumption that might lead to health complications. Health Canada spokesperson Tammy Jarbeau has hinted at on new policies about a standardised cannabis symbol on product labels and outlawing product forms, colors and shapes that appeal to children.
Is the Food Industry Ready?
Cannabis edibles might become an area that overtakes the current demand currently focused on other areas in the industry. For instance, people might be begin to substitute their regular meals at favorite eateries for cannabis-infused meals at cannabis-based restaurants. In the United States, cannabis-based candies are the most popular types of cannabis edibles, and this might mean that producers of regular candies have to seriously consider whether their future should include edibles as well.
Besides cannabis-infused foods being used for recreational purposes, they can also appeal to consumers as a ‘superfood’. Cannabis is a powerhouse of nutrition, boasting rich quantities of protein, carbohydrate, potassium, iron, zinc, vitamins, as well as highly beneficial cannabinoids. As such, the consumption of cannabis edibles could skyrocket in the years following legalisation.
Will the Government’s Approach to Cannabis Edibles Work?
The food industry is currently unprepared to take on cannabis edibles without comprehensive regulatory policies in place. However, current lawmakers have the benefit of observing the successes and failures of other regions when considering their policies. With cannabis edible products carefully regulated, there’s every likelihood that the edible industry will flourish and even take over some niches currently occupied by other parts of the food industry.