Pubdate: Thu, 05 Oct 2017
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 The Globe and Mail Company
Authors: Sylvain Charlebois and Simon Somogyi
Page: B4


Ottawa's decision to ban edibles was plainly shortsighted, but recent
amendments to allow them are what the public deserves

If all things go to plan, as of July 1, 2018, legal-aged Canadians
will be able to walk into a store, experience a perhaps notso-friendly
retail environment and buy cannabis. Federal and provincial government
leaders are working out how and in what form you will be able to buy

Edible items containing cannabis ("edibles") are prepared food
products, such as cakes, muffins, candy and drinks. This category also
includes the possibility of purchasing a restaurant meal that contains
cannabis. Edibles initially were to be banned under Bill C-45, the act
to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, but this was recently
amended to allow these goods. This will take place one year after
regular cannabis is legalized in Canada. So it seems Ottawa has
changed its mind and, arguably, for some good reasons.

First, if the retail price point of legalized cannabis remains
unknown, the black market could expand. As a result, edibles could
become more readily available to the public, which is less desirable.
By allowing edibles on the market, oversight regarding quality,
safety, dosage, packaging, labelling and other important aspects of
food distribution is more plausible.

Secondly, until just recently, legislation stated that the only form
of cannabis available for purchase would be dried plant material for
smoking and that edible products would, for the time being, be banned.
Most experts agree that ingesting cannabis is better than smoking it.
Not allowing edibles would have sent the wrong message to the public,
possibly inviting many consumers to consider the black market for a
healthier choice. Meanwhile, Health Canada is informing Canadians that
edibles are the only form of safe cannabis consumption. This would
have made the whole thing quite awkward for the government.

Thirdly, of course, are the various types of products which could
cause harm to children. Food innovation, free of any regulatory
framework, can lead to a mess. This is what the state of Colorado went
through in 2014 when it legalized marijuana. Child-friendly food
products could become more common, exposing children to harmful
products. Candies, gummy bears, suckers and drinks, are forms of
edibles that are already being produced and which are very attractive
to children.

A recent study from Dalhousie University shows that almost 60 per cent
of Canadians are concerned about the access children will have to
cannabis come July, 2018. That same study also showed that 46 per cent
of Canadians would try cannabisinfused food products, if they became
available on the market. The temptation clearly exists among
consumers. Most, driven by curiosity, will likely try to purchase
products on the black market.

The banning of edible cannabis products was plainly shortsighted.
Canada has a well-established food processing and food-retail
industry. These industries, whether food manufacturers or restaurants,
are not only accustomed to producing consistent, high-quality products
but also used to following phytosanitary and food-safety regulations.
It should be of little challenge for them to create and deliver safe
and quality assured cannabis, as long as regulations are clear and
predictable. They are just waiting for the official government
go-ahead to capitalize on what is considered by many to be a highly
lucrative market. It is not going to happen any time soon, but
allowing edibles will give a chance for the market to adapt to and
manage a potential cascade of cannabis-infused food products.

Much work remains, but it will all be worth it and is something the
Canadian public deserves.

Giving edibles more attention in the legislation is good news for

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Sylvain Charlebois is dean of the Faculty of Management and professor in 
distribution and policy at Dalhousie University. Simon Somogyi is an 
associate professor of food value chains in the Faculty of Agriculture 
at Dalhousie University.
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