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Faculty of Law discusses cannabis edibles

By Devin Szoo, October 25 2019—

Cannabis consumers can expect to find edibles and other new products on the shelves shortly, thanks to a new law that came into force on Oct. 17. This regulatory regime allows for the sale of recreational cannabis edibles, extracts and topicals, according to a lecture given at the Faculty of Law last Saturday.

Lorian Hardcastle, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Law and a member of the O’Brien Institute for Public Health, delivered the talk, which provided an overview of the new regulations as well as a review of the last year of legal developments around the legalization of cannabis.

The new regulatory structure allows for the sale of a slew of new products, such as cannabis edibles, concentrates and topicals. However, the regulations are strict and aim to keep the products out of the hands of children. Each package must contain no more than 10mg of THC. Products must also not be appealing to children, and must be sealed in a childproof container. 

Another concern is the over-consumption of cannabis causing unpleasant effects. This is reflected in Emergency Room visits from Colorado. Ten per cent of the state’s cannabis-related ER visits were due to the consumption of edibles, which make up one per cent of overall sales. The visits are rarely serious, however, with most individuals being discharged after the effects have worn off. The regulations seek to address these issues with controls on labeling, product design and packaging. 

Even though the regulations were changed earlier this month, don’t expect to see the products on the shelves for a couple of months. Health Canada requires a 60-day review period to determine each product’s compliance with the regulations. The provincial agencies which distribute products to retailers also require time to acquire and distribute the products. The AGLC, Alberta’s cannabis control agency, expects limited quantities of the new products in early January. 

The talk ended with a review of the various legal issues brought about by legalization. 

Among the top concerns of Health Canada before legalization was impaired driving. Alberta has seen eight charges since legalization, including one in Calgary. Some other regions have seen much higher rates, with Ontario at over 100 charges laid since legalization, the most in Canada. 

The legislation around cannabis-impaired driving remains a hot topic in the legal community, due to the difficulty in assessing impairment of someone under the influence of cannabis, versus the influence of alcohol. 

Currently, the most common way of determining cannabis-related impairment is a blood test. The blood THC limits that the law prescribes have been called arbitrary because the limits do not necessarily indicate impairment. 

This is in contrast to the breathalyzer used for alcohol, which provides an accurate indication of a driver’s impairment. There are multiple causes of impaired driving charges being challenged on constitutional grounds due to these limits.

Additional information about the updated regulations can be found on Health Canada’s website.

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