Back Version française
Business Law, Litigation

Pass the Edibles Please

Jan 22nd, 2019

By Morris Szwimer

Proposed Amendments to Schedules 3 and 4 of the Cannabis Act and to the Cannabis Regulations

The holiday season brought with it the publication of the proposed amendments to the Federal Cannabis Act (the “Act”) as well as proposed amendments to the Cannabis Regulations (the “Regulations”). The proposed amendments which were released on December 22, 2018 will pave the way for the legal sale of edibles, extracts and topicals containing cannabis. It is anticipated that these proposed amendments to the Act and Regulations will permit the sale of such products by October 17, 2019, however the legislation can provide for the legal sale of such products earlier if so declared by Royal Order.

Currently five classes of cannabis are listed in Schedule 4 of the Act, namely (i) dried cannabis, (ii) cannabis oils, (iii) fresh cannabis, (iv) cannabis plants (v) and cannabis plant seeds. The proposed amendments to the Act provide for the establishment of three new classes which could be sold legally by license holders. These are: (i) edible cannabis, (ii) cannabis extracts and (iii) cannabis topicals, namely:

  • edibles containing cannabis that are intended to be consumed in the same manner as food;
  • extracts that are produced using extraction processing and methods by synthesizing phytocannabinoids; and
  • topicals that include cannabis as an ingredient and which are intended to be used on external body surfaces.

Because Canadians may choose ingesting edibles and using topicals as a means to indulge their cannabis craving as opposed to smoking or vaping the product, the proposed regulations include restrictions regarding the production, distribution and storage of cannabis in order to ensure its quality,i.e. good production practices.

In fact, these practices are similar to those already provided in the Safe Food for Canadians Act which target the cleanliness of equipment used in producing and handling cannabis, air filtration requirements to prevent odours escaping as well as requiring hand-cleaning and sanitizing stations where cannabis is being produced. In addition, edible cannabis is not permitted on a site where food products are produced, unless the production of cannabis is in another building on the premises.
The proposed amendments to the Regulations do not provide for any major change regarding licensing. As such, processing licenses will still be required in order to manufacture edible cannabis, cannabis extracts and cannabis topicals as well as to package and label these types products for sale to consumers.

Consistent with the Canadian government’s health approach to the regulation of cannabis products and the prevention of accidental consumption or overconsumption of edibles, the proposed regulations set out restrictions regarding the format and composition of each product and the inclusion of limits on THC per serving and per package.

The proposed amendments to the Regulations also provide restrictions relating to the content (i.e. permitting only food and food additives to ingredients used in edible cannabis), prohibitions against the use of meat, poultry or fish in edible cannabis (with the exception of dried meat, poultry and fish) and prohibitions against fortifying edible cannabis with vitamins or nutrients. Additionally, cannabis infused alcohols or beers are not permitted.

Finally, the proposed amendments address packaging and labeling for sale at the retail level. It is anticipated that these packaging restrictions will be similar to those which we currently see in the sale of tobacco products. There are also prohibitions against representations regarding health benefits associated with particular cannabis products, edibles or topical cannabis products (i.e. claims that consumption or use supports a healthy diet or lifestyle or causes certain positive health or esthetic results).

Given the proposed legislation is subject to public commentary during a 60-day period following its publication in the Canada Gazette, we anticipate many representations and input will be made to the government over the next few weeks.

If you are intending to be active in this burgeoning industry, it is imperative that the cannabis products you intend to produce or distribute comply with the Act and the Regulations. We encourage you to contact our office in order to discuss these issues with members of our Cannabis Group.

This publication is of a general nature, is as of the date indicated and is not intended to constitute an opinion or legal advice. The facts and circumstances of your particular situation should be specifically identified and addressed before appropriate legal advice may be given.