Cannabis edibles should be hitting the Canadian market just in time for the end-of-year holidays, but consumers should expect limited options at launch. In fact, cannabis producers could face hefty fines and time in prison if they make popular types of THC-infused snacks that have been prohibited by Canada.
Under Health Canada's strict regulations, cannabis edibles cannot have any "youth appeal," though the regulations do not clearly define what this means, and all products will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Officials said product screening will take things like flavor, color, shape, smell and branding into consideration.
And while specifics are scarce on what exactly will and won't be deemed appealing to children, Health Canada officials did rule out at least one popular candy.
"If you're asking if a gummy bear is appealing to a young person, would that be permitted, the answer is no," one official said.
And refusing to follow the government's anti-gummy bear guidelines is "punishable by very serious consequences," the official continued, stating that violators could face up to "five years in prison and a million dollar fine."
All products will also be required to be sealed in child-resistant packaging. Additionally, each individually packaged product cannot exceed 10 milligrams of THC—cannabis' primary intoxicating compound.
Beyond the harsh rules, cannabis producers will also face a tight time crunch to get ready for the new market. Businesses looking to sell legal marijuana edibles in Canada will be on a tight timeline if they want to have products on the market when it launches this December. Interested producers will be able to begin applying for licenses to produce cannabis edibles on July 15. Once the new edibles regulations come into effect on October 17, producers can begin submitting product proposals to Health Canada, which has to approve those proposals before businesses can start selling edibles. Cleared products can officially hit store shelves on December 16.
This short turnaround means that edibles producers will likely choose to focus on a smaller, core group of products in order to have at least something in local dispensaries on launch day, said government officials.
"Adult consumers should expect to see a limited selection of products appear in stores initially, with additional products becoming available over time," one official told CBC.
Many in the cannabis industry have been quick to criticize the new regulations, saying they are too restrictive and will prevent businesses from meeting their full potential and competing with the black market. Similar critiques have been leveled against the government's regulations surrounding smokable cannabis products as well.
Despite this, the Liberal government's point person on cannabis regulations Bill Blair—Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction—said he's unconcerned by the industry's dissatisfaction.
"I've heard from the industry and people say, 'You know, we could make more money if you did this or relaxed these regulations.' But quite frankly, that's not our motivation," he said of the new regulations at an event on Friday.
"Our motivation is, and will always be, to protect our kids, protect health and safety of Canadians, to keep our communities safe and displace that illicit market that has developed over decades in this country."
With this in mind, people familiar with the vibrant edibles markets in places like California or Colorado might be a little disappointed by what they find in Canadian dispensaries this December. And if the country's mass shortage of cannabis keeps up, there might not be any edibles to buy anyhow.