Canada’s draft regulations for cannabis edibles ban alcohol brands, cap THC

Canada’s health department unveiled its draft regulations for edible cannabis and infused beverages, extracts and topicals, to establish parameters for a new wave of businesses and entrepreneurs aiming to capitalize on the country’s marijuana industry.

The formal draft regulations will be published in the Canada Gazette, the government’s official newspaper, on Dec. 22, and businesses and the public can submit feedback until Feb. 20, 2019.

Read a complete copy of the proposed regulations here.

Additionally, Health Canada will convene regional roundtable discussions and webinars to seek input and explain the proposed regulatory controls.

The regulations will apply to recreational users and medical cannabis patients. 

Patients will be able to legally purchase any of the new classes of cannabis from a federally licensed seller for medical purposes that they are registered with.

The final version of the regulations could be published in the Gazette around July, pending revisions after consultations are complete, leaving time for the rules to take effect before Oct. 17, 2019.

Highlights from the proposal include:

  • Alcohol is banned from solid edible cannabis or beverages containing THC.
  • Edible cannabis in solid form will be limited to 10 milligrams of THC per container – meaning if there are two cookies in a package, each can only contain 5 milligrams of THC.
  • For cannabis beverages, the limit on THC would be 10 milligrams “per container.”
  • Ingested cannabis extracts will be limited to 10 mg of THC per unit – such as a capsule – or a dispensed total of 1,000 mg of THC per package. This will be especially applicable for the medical community.
  • Inhaled cannabis extracts will be sold in packages containing no more than 1,000 mg of THC.
  • “Concentrates” will be limited to no more than 1,000 mg of THC per package.
  • Sales of cannabis topicals will be kept to 1,000 mg of THC per package or lower.
  • None of the products sold will be allowed to contain health or dietary claims.

Industry reaction

While it’s an important and welcome step for the industry, experts expressed concern that that proposed rules ban “elements that would associate the product with alcoholic beverages or brands of alcohol.”

“If you expect to reduce the harms caused by alcohol, you can’t do that if you can’t make a substitute product that looks like alcohol or is associated with an alcohol brand,” said Deepak Anand, vice president of government relations for Toronto consultancy Cannabis Compliance.

Anand also said the 10 milligram limit that would be applied to packages of cannabis edibles and beverages was too limiting.

“Consumers can just buy two, three, four single-serving packages,” he said. “Consumers should have the option to get a higher dosage if they want it.”

He noted that the cannabis industry will address these and other concerns in the consultations with Health Canada.

American comparables

Canada’s proposed limit on THC in edibles and infused beverages are in line with limits in recreational markets in the United States, however restrictions on the amount of cannabis in packages differs significantly.

In Oregon, for example, a recreational consumer can buy a package of edibles that contains up to 50 milligrams of THC, with each serving size in the package containing up to 5 milligrams.

In California, Colorado and Washington, recreational cannabis customers can buy packages of edibles with up to 100 milligrams of THC, with each serving size containing up to 10 milligrams.

State limits for medical edibles are typically much higher than for recreational in many – if not most – U.S. state markets that have both rec and medical sales.

Canada also is proposing a limit on caffeine in infused products, but it is unclear whether that will be a cap on the amount of caffeine or a ban on caffeine additives.

In an early draft of regulations for California’s adult-use market, the state department of public health suggested an outright ban on caffeine in edible products and infused beverages.

Manufacturers pushed back, noting that it is naturally occurring in cocoa beans, coffee and tea – ingredients commonly used in marijuana-infused edibles and beverages.

The state’s department of public health settled on proposing a ban on caffeine additives, including the kinds of synthetic caffeine used in some energy drinks.

Additional reporting by Joey Peña in Denver and John Schroyer in California. 

Matt Lamers can be reached at

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