Ottawa Makes Smart Move With Edibles

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We already know what Canadians are puffing —among others, we reportedly love the cannabis strains Romulan (created in British Columbia) and Lowryder, which thrives in cooler climates.

But soon, we will know what kinds of cannabis treats Canadians are nibbling, too.

In a pivot that we champion, Ottawa announced this month that it no longer plans to ban edible cannabis products from store shelves in Canada. We won’t see edibles until a year after recreational sales are legal, which is scheduled for July 1 of next year. But at least we are on the proper path.

Cannabis offers manifold benefits to a wide variety of consumers — from people seeking anxiety- and sleep-relief to those who just want to unwind after a long day at work. But smoking is not for everybody. Some people, like asthmatics, reject smoking for health reasons. Others prefer the cannabis experience that comes from edibles — the effects mount slowly (rather than rise quickly, as with smoking), and they last longer.

Eliminating the edibles choice would have needlessly penalized people who choose not to smoke. And it could have fostered an unfortunate black market — people who need or desire cannabis but were barred from the legal market due to regulations would stand as ripe opportunities for black marketeers. We would like to eliminate the black market altogether, of course, and we feel it is especially urgent for cannabis edibles. These are food products, and like all Canadian food products should be subject to regulatory oversight and regulation. The last thing we want to see is a black market for things like cannabis candies, which if made by unregulated amateurs could lead to dangerous products.

The planned roll-out of cannabis edibles is about 20 months away, which means we have plenty of time to draft sensible regulations and for entrepreneurs to begin applying for the licenses they will need, find manufacturing space and accomplish the rest of the tasks necessary before opening a business.

Permitting the sale of edibles is fair to consumers, and potentially beneficial to Canadian business.

In Colorado, Washington and Oregon, the U.S. states with the biggest and most mature recreational cannabis marketplaces, edibles for the first half of this year captured 13 percent of the overall cannabis market, with sales of $181.5 million, according to cannabis data analytics firm BDS Analytics. The broad category, including everything from chocolates to cookies, tinctures, capsules and crackers, is one of the more commercially varied and effervescent slices of the cannabis pie. Edibles brands, unlike flower products, require investments in food-making equipment. And their success rests, in part, upon branding, packaging and messaging (as well as quality). The best flower businesses, on the other hand, remain fixed on quality and relationships with the wholesale and dispensary markets. Public-facing branding is not vital.

Where growing is agricultural, and invites people interested in everything from lighting technology to hydroponics to the cannabis table, edibles is a food industry. Chefs, bakers, product development specialists and others interested in that line of work are attracted to edibles jobs. In addition, professional product designers play important roles in this industry. Just consider the brand bonanza surrounding the food industry — it is the busiest commercial marketplace in the world. Cannabis edibles will never approach the broad food industry, in terms of brand proliferation. But if edibles regulations in Canada are structured wisely, we could witness a healthy expansion of jobs, occupied real estate, tax receipts and overall economic vitality. We certainly see a lot of economic activity in Colorado, Washington and Oregon due to these states’ highly regulated edibles industries.

The work on edibles lies ahead for all Canadians — from growers to food production specialists to parents concerned about keeping products away from their kids. The principal goals are the same for all of us — safe products, and economic vitality.

Ontario Heads in Smart Direction

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Ontario has issued its plans for how to implement cannabis legalization once it becomes national law, and we believe there is much to champion in the province’s approach towards building a smart regulatory framework that benefits consumers, businesses and government.

As owners of cannabis grow facilities in different provinces, we are eager to begin working with regulatory bodies as they begin drafting rules. We of course fully embrace rules that provide wide latitude to consumers and businesses, but we also endorse a framework that offers clear and sturdy structure to the ways in which we conduct business, shop and consume. Ontario’s efforts reflect a legacy of hard work on the part of provincial staff and quite a bit of regulatory savvy.

This has been a long time coming.

The decades-long demonization of cannabis, as we all know, was misguided and, frankly, absurd. This plant offers the world far too much — everything from avenues towards medical treatment to the same sort of social stimulus provided by lager and cabernet.

With legal cannabis in its fourth year in the United States (both Colorado and Washington rolled-out legal cannabis in 2014) we have much to examine, in terms of the plant’s social impacts. So far, cannabis sales have pumped millions of dollars into state tax coffers, jumpstarted the nation’s fastest-growing industry, offered thousands of jobs and filled warehouses and storefronts that formerly were vacant with commercial activity. Meanwhile, legalization has not led to boosted crime rates, escalating youth cannabis use (in fact, some studies suggest youth cannabis use in legal marijuana states is declining) or emerging health problems.

Studies are conflicting about whether legal cannabis has led to increased traffic accidents and fatalities. Either way, like all responsible cannabis advocates we believe cannabis use, like drinking alcohol, does not mix with driving. And thus we are pleased to see Ontario address potential issues surrounding cannabis and driving with well-considered regulations.

Our enthusiasm for Ontario’s cannabis regulatory framework does not suggest we believe there is not room for improvement. The process is just beginning, and we look forward to engaging with regulators and stakeholders about important issues ranging from the kinds of products available (including cannabis sold in edible form) to the distribution of legal cannabis stores throughout the province, workplace education, and the potential introduction of designated establishments where cannabis could legally be consumed; for now Ontario’s proposed rules forbid cannabis consumption outside of private residences.

As other provinces work to establish regulatory frameworks, we believe Ontario’s approach is an excellent starting point. We all have much work ahead, and we are eager to roll up our sleeves and get involved.