Edibles in Canada
New regulations legalizing edible cannabis were released in June 2019 and came into effect on
October 17, 2019. However, with a 60-day certification period put into place by Health Canada
as well as logistical issues involved in rolling out new products, edibles were only available for
purchase in most provinces starting in January 2020. The regulations were based on the 2016
recommendations of the Canadian Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation and are
largely aimed at addressing potential health risks.*
Edibles can only have up to 10 mg of THC per immediate container, subject to the variability
ranges in the regulation. These variability ranges are 75% to 125% for 2 mg or less, 80% to
120% for 2-5 mg, and 85% to 115% for anything over 5 mg.
The regulations impose safety requirements for edibles production. Producers must identify and analyze biological, chemical, and physical hazards that risk contaminating their edibles. They must also come up with a written preventive control plan to meet the regulations and be
approved by a quality assurance person who is qualified to make judgements on edible cannabis.
The regulations also deal with other aspects of the production process. Water, steam, or ice that might contact edibles or ingredients in edibles must either be potable or determined to not pose a risk of contamination. Cannabis batches used for edibles also must be tested for contaminants. The usage limits for pest control products and irradiation is also dealt with in the regulations
Besides mandating a safe production process, the regulations also limit edibles to being made
using food or food additives. The use of meat, poultry, and fish is only allowed if produced by a
person authorized to produce them under provincial law and meets the water activity requirements in the regulation. Similarly, the regulations put restrictions on self-produced food and food additives. Furthermore, vitamins and nutrients are not allowed in edibles except as authorized food additives.
Edibles cannot be made using ingredients that would be prohibited under section 4 of
Food and Drugs Act (e.g. poisoned, unfit for human consumption, unsanitary conditions, etc.). Caffeine is not allowed in edibles unless it is from ingredients that naturally contain caffeine and does not exceed 30 mg. Ethyl alcohol is only allowed at the low level of 0.5% w/w of the edible cannabis. Other regulations include a ban on edibles that require refrigeration to avoid contamination or hermetically sealed containers in certain conditions.
Packaging and marketing
Packaging requirements are broadly similar to those for other cannabis products. The packaging must be plain and child resistant. They must use the standardized symbols for products with THC, Health Warning Messages, a nutrition facts table, and ingredient information. Specific to edibles, however, is a ban on expiry dates in favour of a durable life date if it is fewer than 90 days and a requirement to display information on irradiation. Specific packaging and labelling requirements for edibles can be found starting at section 132.18 of the regulations.
The general marketing rules also apply to edibles. They must not be marketed in a way that is
appealing to youth and cannot be associated with alcohol, tobacco, or vaping. Promoting health, dietary, or cosmetic effects are also not allowed. For edibles, in particular, marketing cannot make claims about energy and nutrition beyond what is in a nutrition facts table. Edibles also cannot be marketed as meeting any particular dietary requirement.
* Jasleen K. Grewal & Lawrence C. Loh, “Health considerations of the legalization of cannabis edibles” (2020) 192:1 Canadian Medical Association Journal E1, DOI: <10.1503/cmaj.191217>.