Pubdate: Thu, 23 Mar 2017
Source: Nanaimo News Bulletin (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017, BC Newspaper Group
Author: Tamara Cunningham


Authority will take action on marijuana dispensaries that sell food
items such as brownies

Pot dispensaries run the risk of action from Island Health if they
continue to sell marijuana edibles, according to the health
authority's top medical health officer.

Marijuana-infused food, from cookies, to candies, brownies and
chocolate bars have appeared on the menus of Nanaimo dispensaries but
Island Health is now making it clear that preparing, selling or
distributing the edibles is not allowed.

Island Health banned the sale of marijuana edibles at Victoria's Gorge
Medijuana Dispensary after environmental health officers responded to
a complaint about sanitation in the customer service area and that it
was selling edible products. It's through that process that the health
authority learned several other dispensaries are also selling edible
marijuana products, according to an e-mailed statement.

The health authority has not issued any other letters or notifications
to other dispensaries within its jurisdiction as of Tuesday, but will
follow up with them and if they're selling edibles, will request they
comply with the Public Health Act, it says.

The issue is the act's food premises regulation that requires all
ingredients used in the preparation of food for sale to be from an
approved source, which the marijuana used in the production of edibles
from these dispensaries are not, according to Dr. Richard Stanwick,
chief medical health officer.

He plans to do education first, with a general information bulletin.
Action would be on a complaint basis, but Stanwick said if
dispensaries continue to sell there's a risk Island Health could take
action against them. He said the health authority would try to work
with the operator, but has tools at its disposal, starting with a
ticketing process and moving up to a court order to cease and desist
selling the product.

"At this juncture we really don't know where the marijuana is coming
from and that given that there is legislation concerning food safety
we basically have an obligation to make the operators aware and if
there are complaints, we will probably respond," he said, Stanwick.
"This does not preclude them, for example, selling it in pill form or
as a distillate. We are not interested in trying to regulate the
marijuana field. It just happens that the edibles cross paths with
provincial legislation when it's provided as a food stuff."

Stanwick said Island Health is not trying to victimize an industry,
but that these are the regulations and "it is an awkward situation."
He points to Nanaimo, where there is a federally sanctioned operation
that could produce marijuana that, were it to be secured and put into
edible products, Island Health would have no trouble with because it
meets the requirements of an approved source. The catch, Stanwick
said, is that a facility is producing marijuana that could be used in
edibles but not allowed to sell it or supply it to the

Alex Robb, community liaison for Trees Dispensary, told the News
Bulletin it sells a fair amount of edibles, estimating it's 30 per
cent of retail and he said they have high standards, with employees
trained in Foodsafe, regular checks of freezers and fridges and high
labelling standards.

He calls it a difficult situation because there is concern some
producers of edibles are not providing accurate dosing and following
standards of a commercial bakery or kitchen, but there are also
operators that are doing those things. Island Health has not
differentiated and has no means right now to differentiate between
different operators, he said.

Trees Dispensary is waiting for direction from Island Health and will
stop selling edibles when told it can no longer do so, but Robb said
the dispensary is pressing Island Health and the province for an
inspection regime for facilities that do process cannabis into a food
ingredient so certain operations can be approved and that there's
standards to ensure goods are produced in a safe and healthy way.

Island Releaf Medicinal Cannabis Boutique in Nanaimo also offer
edibles, like candies, cookies and chocolate bars. Eighty per cent of
clients don't want to smoke cannabis, said manager Sheina Criss.

"They are saying that we need to do this in an authorized commercial
kitchen, but Vancouver Island Health Authority will not authorize a
cannabis kitchen because it's not legal anywhere, so again they're
taking control their own way," she said.

That Island health is following up with dispensaries about edible
products and requesting compliance with the Public Health Act is a
good thing in that they're getting a hold of edibles, according to
Criss, but she said what matters most is where the edibles come from -
if it's from people doing it professionally out of a commercial
kitchen or someone doing a "guessing game" and baking a cake in their
house and bringing it into a dispensary, which she said is not acceptable.

"There's a lot of people that have put their heart and soul into it
and they do a wonderful job, and there's many people out there that
really, really won't be able to function without these things … they
need their edibles," she said.

If she was ordered to stop selling edibles she said she'd probably
have to talk to her legal counsel.
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MAP posted-by: Matt