Have Your Cannabis and Eat It Too

Christopher Masich
Christopher Masich

CannabisOn December 20, 2018, Health Canada commenced its regulatory consultation for proposed amendments to the Cannabis Act that will introduce three new product types: “edible cannabis”, “cannabis extracts” and “cannabis topicals”. Once proclaimed into force, these amendments will result in new cannabis-based food, beverage and cosmetic products anticipated across Canada no later than October 2019. In this article, we briefly highlight key regulatory requirements to these new cannabis-based products.

Currently, Schedule 4 of the Cannabis Act sets out the following classes of cannabis: dried cannabis, fresh cannabis, cannabis plants, cannabis plant seeds and cannabis oil.  These classes have produced the smoke-based and vapor-based products now sold by Canadian cannabis retailers.  The proposed amendments, however, now include new classes of:

  • edible cannabis: products containing cannabis that are intended to be consumed in the same manner as food or drink,
  • cannabis extracts: products produced using extraction processing methods or by synthesizing phytocannabinoids, and
  • cannabis topicals: products containing cannabis as an ingredient that are intended to be used on external body surfaces, including skin, hair, and nails.

These new classes will give rise to edible, ingestible and topical cannabis based-products.

Similar to Health Canada’s regulatory oversight of the food, beverage and cosmetic industries generally, these new cannabis classes include regulations on: production facilities, production practices and quality control, THC limits, packaging and labelling.

Production Facilities

The proposed amendments include regulations similar to those in the Safe Food For Canadians Act to, among other things, prevent food-borne illness.  Importantly, additional regulation will be specifically established in relation to sanitation, ventilation, contamination and the development of written preventative control plans.   For example, it is proposed that production of edible cannabis at a site where conventional food products are also manufactured may only be done if the edible cannabis is being produced within a separate licensed building. This proposal is intended to mitigate against the food safety and public health concerns associated with multiproduct manufacturing facilities, and to mitigate against the risks of cross-contamination between ingredients and products.

THC Limits

To reduce the risks associated with overconsumption and accidental consumption, limits will be placed on the amount of THC, both in individual servings (or “discrete units”) and in a single package. Specifically, it is proposed that:

  • For edible cannabis, there will be a limit of 10 milligrams of THC per discrete unit and per package. This would mean, for example, that a package could contain one discrete unit of edible cannabis that contains 10 milligrams of THC or two discrete units that each contain 5 milligrams of THC.
  • For cannabis extracts, as is currently the case for cannabis oil, there would be a limit of 10 milligrams of THC per discrete unit that is intended to be ingested. In addition, there would be a new limit of 1 gram of THC in a single package.
  • For cannabis topicals, there would be a limit of no more than 1 gram of THC in a package.

Packaging and Labelling

The proposed amendments maintain the core plain packaging and labelling requirements that currently apply to all cannabis products, such as the standardized cannabis symbol, health warning messages, THC and CBD content and child-resistant packaging. Additionally, packaging must also include a list of ingredients and simplified nutrition facts. Labels for cannabis edibles and extracts must also include allergen and gluten warnings as well as a “best-before” date. Cannabis topicals must display directions for use as well as certain warnings that are currently required for cosmetic products. No cannabis product can be represented as having a health benefit or being suitable for persons with dietary restrictions.

All representations that associate a cannabis product with an alcoholic beverage will be prohibited. For example, it would be prohibited to use terms related to alcoholic beverages, such as “beer” or “wine,” on cannabis products. It would similarly be prohibited for the name or logo of a company that manufactures alcoholic beverages to be used on a cannabis product. In addition to reducing inducements to use cannabis, this prohibition is felt to be necessary given the known health risks associated with the concurrent use of alcohol and cannabis.

As of writing this article, the proposed amendments are not law, and changes may be made before final regulations are developed in 2019.

Christopher J. Masich
McKercher LLP
374 Third Avenue South, Saskatoon, SK
(306) 653-2000