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Weed 101: What British Columbians need to know now that edibles are legal

Cannabis edibles and other pot extracts are now legal, but I'll be some time before they're on the shelves. Aaron McArthur explains why.

If you’re a pot aficionado that’s been craving a bud brownie, Oct. 17 is a big day.

Three new classes of cannabis product became legal in Canada on Thursday: topicals, extracts and the long-anticipated launch of edibles.

Here’s what you need to know about legalization 2.0 if you live in B.C.

Cannabis edibles now legal but won’t be in B.C. pot shops until December
Cannabis edibles now legal but won’t be in B.C. pot shops until December

What is legal now?

As of Thursday, three new classes of cannabis products are legal for production and sale:

  • Edible cannabis, such as baked goods and beverages;
  • Cannabis extracts, such as vaping liquids, tinctures, wax, hash and cannabis oil; and
  • Cannabis topicals, such as creams, lotions and balms, and similar products that are meant to be applied to a person’s skin, hair or nails
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Edibles are cannabis-infused products that are meant to be consumed in the same manner as food, and can range from brownies to candies to beverages or other infused products that contain either THC or CBD.

READ MORE: Edibles expected to shake up Alberta cannabis market

Extracts refer to any oil-based products, including oils, capsules or sprays meant to be taken orally, or products meant to be inhaled such as shatter, budder, wax, resin or vape oils.

Topicals refer to any cannabis-infused product meant to be applied to skin, hair or nails.

Where and when can I get them?

Edible products might now be legal in Canada, but it will be some time before you will be able to get your hands on them in B.C.

Under Canada’s regulatory regime, licenced producers (LPs) must give Health Canada at least 60 days’ notice before making a new cannabis product available for sale.

Theoretically, that means legal edibles could be available in B.C. in time to stuff some Christmas stockings, but don’t hold your breath: the province estimates they should start hitting shelves in “late-December 2019.”

How edibles are expected to change Canada’s cannabis game
How edibles are expected to change Canada’s cannabis game

Viviana Zanocco, a spokesperson for the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch, said the province had put a product call out to cannabis producers in August to try and line up a supply of edibles for the system.

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“That said, it will take time before suppliers will be able to stock and ship a full suite of products to retailers,” she said.

“Availability of product will be dependent on a number of factors, such as supply, and the demand suppliers are meeting in other markets across Canada.”

READ MORE: Cannabis edibles expected to hit Canadian shelves mid-December

Zanocco added that once products do ship, they will be available in both government-run and private cannabis stores or through the federal medical cannabis system.

It is illegal to purchase edibles from any unlicenced seller.

How strong are they?

One aspect of legalized edibles that has drawn early criticism is the dosage.

Under Health Canada’s regulations, the maximum dosage permitted in a single package of edible product is 10 milligrams of THC, the psychoactive compound in pot.

Vancouver lawyer Sarah Lehmon said that will be disappointing to regular cannabis users.

“That’s an extremely low serving, particularly for people who are either experienced recreational users or medicinal users,” she said.

“So those people are going to have to go out and spend a whole lot of money in order to consume many products and achieve a desired result.”

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Lehmon believes those restrictions constitute a barrier to access that will be quickly challenged in court.

One year of legal cannabis
One year of legal cannabis

Under the new rules, cannabis extracts such as edible oils will be limited to a 10-milligram single dose, but can be sold in packages containing up to 1,000 milligrams worth of doses.

Topical products can also come in a 1,000-milligram package.

There is no limit to CBD content in the new products. Edible products are also not allowed to contain alcohol or added vitamins or minerals.

In its own tip guide for users, the province of B.C. recommends inexperienced edible users start with very small doses of about 2.5 milligrams at a time.

New users who think they aren’t feeling the effects of the product should wait before they take more — edibles can take anywhere from half an hour to two hours to kick in, and up to four hours to peak, according to the province.

The effects can last from four to 12 hours, with some effects even persisting up to 24 hours for some users.

How edibles affect a person can depend on many factors, including age, weight, sex, metabolism, and whether they’re consumed on an empty stomach.

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Kids and safety

Under federal regulations, all edibles must come in plain, child-resistant packaging, and must be designed in a way to not be appealing to children.

Despite that, people are still advised take particular care to keep them out of reach of kids.

Lehmon advises that parents take the extra step to keep edible products under lock and key.

Cannabis edibles popular among Canadian cannabis users: Ipsos survey
Cannabis edibles popular among Canadian cannabis users: Ipsos survey

She said that’s both to avoid a situation that could be unsafe or simply miserable for their child, but also to protect themselves from civil or criminal liability.

“Criminal negligence charges are something that could flow from a set of actions that didn’t take the proper foreseeable precautions in relation to children,” said Lehmon.

Anyone who accidentally consumes cannabis or consumes too much cannabis and is not well is advised to seek immediate help:

  • Call BC Poison Control Centre: 1-800-567-8911 or 604-682-5050
  • Call 911 or go to your local hospital emergency department

B.C.’s bottom line

B.C. is hoping the introduction of edibles will help boost disappointing retail sales in the province, and with it, the province’s bottom line.

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British Columbia’s 2018-19 budget set the lofty estimate of $200 million over three years in pot revenue.

But back in September, the province revealed that its first transfer payment from the federal government for cannabis revenues was just $1.3 million, and the province revised its three-year estimate down to $68 million.

“What you’re going to see is going to be having an impact in terms of revenue is, for example [when] edibles become available,” said Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth.
“They’re not going to become readily available until early next year, [but] we expect that you’re going to see increased revenue from that.”