Written by Ranjeev S. Dhillon, Aaron E. Sonshine, Rami Chalabi and Nicholas Nevins
On October 3, the Standing Committee on Health (HESA) proposed amendments to Bill C-45 (Cannabis Act) which, if approved by the House of Commons, would allow for cannabis edibles and concentrates to be available for sale in Canada within 12 months of the Cannabis Act coming into force.
The issue of cannabis edibles has been a key talking point in the cannabis legalization debate. The Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation (Task Force) discussed edibles and concentrates in detail in its Framework for the Legalization and Regulation of Cannabis in Canada, and ultimately recommended allowing edibles, provided that certain limitations regarding safety were also put in place. However, when the Cannabis Act was first introduced, cannabis edibles and concentrates were not included as a class of cannabis authorized to be sold.
As originally proposed, the Cannabis Act, like the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations, only authorizes the sale of dried and fresh cannabis, ingestible cannabis oil, and seeds and plants for personal cultivation. However, Health Canada made it clear at the time, that following the coming into force of the Cannabis Act, the government would develop and publish regulations that would permit the sale of edible products. Citing health and safety concerns, and the experiences of other jurisdictions that had already legalized the sale of these products, Health Canada made it clear that until proper regulatory oversight could be established, the sale of cannabis edibles and concentrates would be prohibited. According to Health Canada, regulations regarding the sale of these products are intended to ensure the protection of public health and safety by developing standardized serving sizes and potency, child-resistant packaging requirements, and standardized health warnings.
The HESA advised that the proposed amendments were in response to witness testimony during the HESA's public consultation hearings which took place in September, with a number of witnesses calling for the regulations to provide for a reasonable timeline for the introduction of edibles and concentrates for the public and industry participants.
The proposed amendments to the Cannabis Act related to edibles and concentrates consist of two components. The first amendment prescribes cannabis edibles and concentrates as classes of cannabis products that may be sold in Canada, and the second amendment requires these changes to be implemented no later than 12 months after the Cannabis Act comes into force. While an appropriate regulatory framework will need to be developed to address Health Canada’s initial concerns regarding edibles and concentrates, the amendments demonstrate the HESA’s willingness to take into account the views of key stakeholders as well as the recommendation of the Task Force on the issue.
The amendments also provide a greater degree of certainty for businesses looking to enter the cannabis edibles and concentrates market, as well as for consumers hoping for a wider variety of cannabis consumption methods. If the amendments are approved, businesses interested in adding cannabis edibles and concentrates to their products line can develop business plans with the knowledge that they will be permitted to sell edibles and concentrates within 12 months of legalization.
The above provides a brief overview of the amendments to the Cannabis Act passed by the HESA. It is important to note that these amendments are not yet final, and could still be rejected by the House of Commons. Furthermore, the Cannabis Act itself is still undergoing its review by the HESA and further amendments may be made that could change the potential landscape of the cannabis industry.
At Bennett Jones LLP, we have a team of industry-leading professional advisors that can provide legal and strategic guidance to all industry participants as the Canadian cannabis industry continues to evolve.