File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS Yannick Craigwell shows off some of his edible marijuana baked treats in Vancouver.

Health Canada releases draft regulations for edible cannabis products

OTTAWA — Canadians won’t be allowed to buy cannabis-infused booze when other marijuana-laced “edibles” become legal next fall, under new rules the federal government proposed Thursday.

The regulations say cannabis-infused alcoholic products would not be permitted in Canada, except where the alcohol content is minimal, such as in tinctures meant to be consumed a few drops at a time, and they would have to be labelled as non-alcoholic.

Packaging or labelling beer or wine products together with cannabis would also be prohibited, to reduce the risk of people mixing the two substances, which has been deemed a health risk. And companies that produce alcoholic drinks wouldn’t be allowed to put their names or brands on cannabis drinks.

The draft regulations, released Thursday by Health Canada, propose three new classes of cannabis: edibles, extracts and topicals — and includes a hard cap on the amount of THC these products can contain.

No package of edibles would be permitted more than 10 milligrams of THC, while extracts and topicals could not exceed 1,000 milligrams of THC.

Restrictions would also be placed on ingredients that would make edible cannabis more appealing to children, such as sweeteners or colourants, or adding ingredients that could encourage consumption, such as nicotine. Cannabis edibles that appear or are packaged like candy or other familiar children’s foods would also be banned.

Similar restrictions are proposed for topical products and cannabis extracts, and manufacturers would be prohibited from making any claims about health benefits or nutrition on their labels.

All packaging would have to be plain and child-resistant and display the standard cannabis symbol with a health warning.

Legal cannabis companies welcomed the proposed regulations Thursday, saying they appear at first glance to take into account the need to balance public safety with the effort to divert cannabis consumers from the illegal market.

“The bottom line here is that you want to create enough space for legal products while ensuring that kids are protected,” said Omar Khan, a vice-president with Hill and Knowlton Strategies and a former Ontario Liberal staffer, who advises several clients in the cannabis industry.

Licensed producers are very interested in the market for edibles and cannabis-infused products, Khan noted, pointing to a recent report by Deloitte that estimated most new recreational pot users would likely gravitate toward edible products.

Cannabis beer, wine or spirits won’t be permitted under the regulations but cannabis beverages that do not contain alcohol would be allowed. Bruce Linton, the CEO of Canopy Growth Corp., was especially happy to see that.

The company, which is headquartered in Smiths Falls, Ont., has spent the last four years developing a non-alcoholic cannabis drink and has even built a bottling plant in the hope the government would allow cannabis-infused beverages once edibles are legalized.

He said the categories and products that government is proposing to allow in its next phase of legalization are sure to make a big dent in the illegal market.

“When I look across these categories it strikes me that, if you’re currently in the illegal production business, we now have matchy-match on every category you make money on, which means you’re going to quit making money soon.”

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