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Nova Scotia prepares for a new wave of commercial cannabis edibles

One-year after recreational cannabis became legal in Canada, retailers are preparing for the next chapter of legalization: edibles, extracts and topicals.

One year ago, the lineups to legally purchase recreational cannabis in Nova Scotia were seemingly endless. Twelve months later, both sales and product have settled into a steady rhythm, according to NSLC management.

“(Legalization demand) has been quite consistent in terms of the types of products that customers are looking for, the package sizes that they’re looking for and how much of the product that we’re actually selling,” said Beverley Ware, an NSLC spokesperson.

READ MORE: ‘The sky didn’t fall:’ Police, lawyers still adjusting after cannabis legalization

Ware says the first three weeks were especially busy, leading to widespread shortages in products. It was a gap in supplies that saw Health Canada swiftly move to approve more licensed producers across the country.

“The main challenge that we dealt with was the limited products that were available to us. Fortunately, we had purchase orders issued with a numbered of licensed producers. So, we were able to, in many cases, provide a similar product that would provide a similar experience,” Ware said.

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Nationwide product shortages led to Health Canada swiftly working to approve more licensed producers in order to keep up with the demand for recreational cannabis.
Nationwide product shortages led to Health Canada swiftly working to approve more licensed producers in order to keep up with the demand for recreational cannabis. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

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Overall, the total sales generated in the first year of legalization are in the double-digit millions, Ware said.

“In the first five and a half months of legalization we did $33.2 million. So overall we’ve done just over $49 million in sales since legalization.”

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The next frontier of legal cannabis

Next up on the Canadian cannabis scene is the legalization of edibles, extracts and topicals.

“We’ve been focused on modifying our stores to accommodate this next phase of cannabis products and that’s edibles, extracts and topicals. So those modifications are pretty much finished in many of our stores,” Ware said.

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READ MORE: NSLC to renovate all 12 cannabis stores ahead of edible legalization

Licensed producers are now submitting their new products to Health Canada for approval. Ware says purchase orders can be issued by the retailers beginning Dec. 16.

She expects the new products will begin showing up on shelves by the end of December, or early January.

Health-care professionals in Halifax say just because edibles aren’t available to purchase in stores just yet, that doesn’t mean they aren’t being consumed.

“Over the past few years we’ve seen an increase in trends for edibles, each year since about 2016. Most of the calls that we have received so far are related to homemade edibles. So there will be a change when it’s commercially available,” Laurie Mosher said, the clinical director of the IWK Regional Poison Centre.

The IWK Regional Poison Centre says many people aren’t aware of the dose of THC they’re consuming in edibles because it’s hard to determine how much is actually in homemade products.
The IWK Regional Poison Centre says many people aren’t aware of the dose of THC they’re consuming in edibles because it’s hard to determine how much is actually in homemade products. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

Mosher says many people, both adults and youth, have phoned the poison centre with concerns over edible consumption, particularly when it’s unintentional.

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“Maybe someone was visiting someone’s house and there was a plate of cookies or brownies, and they didn’t realize that they were edibles and ate one,” Mosher said.

Mosher says symptoms can range from increased heart rate to nausea and vomiting, and depending on preexisting health conditions, those symptoms can be very concerning.

“If you had a heart condition and you consumed a large amount, it could be concerning. So that’s what our recommendation is – if you have any medical conditions, or if you’re under 21, or a history of mental health issues – please speak to a health-care professional or a physician,” Mosher said.

Mosher cautions edible consumption in youth should be especially thought out.

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“Their brain is still developing until they’re in their 20s. So we really don’t know the long-term effects of brain development and the aggravation of mental health illnesses and other medical conditions,” Mosher said.