What You Need to Know About Canada's Regs for Cannabis Edibles, Extracts and Topicals

Canada legalized cannabis last October, but not all forms of marijuana can be legally purchased in the country yet. Right now, you can't buy edibles like pot brownies, extracts like nasal sprays and suppositories or topicals like cannabis-infused lotions. But that will change in the near future. At the tail-end of December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government has released proposed regulations for edibles, extracts and topicals, which will take effect by October 17, 2019.

Here's what the proposed regulations have in store for Canadians.

THC limits

Under the proposed regs, each package of edibles can contain no more than 10 mg of THC - the cannabis compound that produces the plant's characteristic high. That limit is per package, not per serving, so a package could contain one brownie with 10 mg of THC, or 5 cookies containing 2 mg each. That means we're going to hear a lot more complaints about over-packaging since 10 mg is roughly the amount of THC that an experienced consumer will have in one sitting to feel high. So if they want to stock up, or plan to have a few cookies over the weekend, all those wrappers are going to add up fast. 

The THC limit is much higher for cannabis extracts. Like cannabis oils that are currently available for sale at licensed distributors, cannabis suppositories, nasal sprays and other products laced with extracts can contain up to 10 mg of THC per unit and up to 1,000 mg per package. The government is proposing the same cap (1,000 mg of THC per package) for cannabis topicals. 

Possession limits

Under the proposed regs, Canadians can possess up to 7.5 grams of extracts in public. The limit for edibles and topicals will be the same as for dried flower (30 grams) unless those products contain more than 3 percent THC by weight. That means 3 percent of the product itself is made up of THC. So having a bunch of cookies should be fine, but you wouldn't be allowed to carry oodles of high-powered gummies. If in doubt, check the label to make sure you're compliant with possession limits.

No cannabis eyedrops or injections

Under the new rules, cannabis manufacturers can't make products that are considered a danger to human health. Those include any products that target the eye (e.g. CBD-infused eyedrops) or penetrate the skin through a means other than absorption. So cannabis-infused lotions are okay, but selling syringes full of THC would be illegal.

Shelf-stable edibles

All cannabis edibles have to be "shelf-stable," meaning they don't require freezing or refrigeration. That means you won't see cannabis-infused ice cream or popsicles for sale anytime soon. That also means you can't have infused meats like chicken or fish unless those items have been properly dried. So THC beef jerky could become available, but you won't see any infused pogo dogs at the dispensary.

Caffeinated cannabis

The government will allow cannabis manufacturers to use ingredients that have naturally occurring caffeine - like chocolate, coffee and tea. However, they can't use caffeine as a food additive, and products can't contain more than  30 mg of caffeine. That means it'd be okay for a chocolate cookie or a coffee-flavored brownie to have caffeine in it, but producers couldn't add caffeine to things like gummy bears or jelly beans. 

Sugar-free extracts

Manufacturers won't be allowed to add sugar or other sweeteners to cannabis extracts unless they are part of a flavoring agent. That means sweetening an extract by infusing it with vanilla would be acceptable, but pouring refined sugar into the formula would be unacceptable. So if you want something to satisfy your sweet tooth, stick with edibles. 

Packaging requirements

Cannabis edibles, extracts and topicals have to be sold in the same plain, child-resistant packaging as dried flower. The packages also have to include the cannabis symbol, health warnings and description of the THC and CBD content that you find on flower containers. On top of that, edibles would have to include a list of ingredients and nutritional information (e.g. the amount of calories, fat, salt, etc.) in the product.

Meanwhile, the packaging for topicals can't make any claims about the product's cosmetic benefits. So while other manufacturers can say that their moisturizer or skin lotion reduces wrinkles and softens skin, cannabis producers can't make those claims without running afoul of federal regulators.  

Feedback wanted

If you don't like the government's plan for edibles, extracts and topicals, it's not too late to let them know. On December 22, the government launched a 60-day Public Comment Period so you can provide feedback on the proposed regs. Comments can be sent by email to [email protected] There's also an online questionnaire available at www.canada.ca/cannabis.

Or you can mail your feedback to:

Eric Costen
Director General, Strategic Policy Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Branch
Address locator: 0302B Health Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0K9

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