On October 17, 2018, Canada became the largest country to fully legalize and regulate for recreational purposes the production, distribution, sale and use of dried cannabis, fresh cannabis, cannabis plants and cannabis plant seeds. The original act and regulations did not provide for edible cannabis – a substance or mixture intended to be consumed in the same manner as food – cannabis extracts or cannabis topicals. However, amendments to the act and regulations, expected to come into force on October 17, 2019 (Federal Amendments), will provide for the inclusion of these products. Edibles are expected to be available for purchase only by mid-December 2019.
Consistent with its overall approach to cannabis legalization, Québec is charting its own path. On July 24, 2019, the provincial government announced it would ban the sale of cannabis-enhanced sweets, confectionery, desserts, chocolate and "any other product attractive to minors", as per the newly-published Draft Regulations to the Québec Cannabis Regulation Act.
Québec's response to the proposed amendments for edibles
On July 24, 2019, in response to the Federal Amendments, the provincial government of Québec released its draft regulations to the Québec Cannabis Regulation Act (Québec Draft Regulations), aiming to restrict the sale of edible cannabis in the province on the grounds of children's safety and public health.
While the Québec Draft Regulations would not prevent the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC) from selling edible cannabis and extracts, the edible cannabis may not be sweets, confectionery, desserts, chocolate or "any other product attractive to minors." A product is considered attractive if it is "directly marketed" to minors, or if "there are reasonable grounds to believe that its form, appearance, or other of its sensory property could be attractive to minors." As a result, other edibles, such as cannabis butter, will be allowed provided that:
- The distinguishable portion unit of an edible cannabis product (which appears to refer to individual portions within the same package) does not contain more than five milligrams of THC;
- The edible cannabis package does not contain more than 10 milligrams of THC; and
- The edible cannabis products in liquid form does not contain more than five milligrams of THC per package.
Finally, cannabis extract itself cannot contain any additives or other substances intended to modify its odour, taste or colour.
The Québec Draft Regulations are subject to a 45-day consultation period before they can take effect.
Although the release of the Québec Draft Regulations caught many by surprise, in the days leading up to its official release, rumours were swirling that the Québec Government was concerned with the Federal Amendments and was going to restrict access to purchase edible cannabis in Québec. The Québec Draft Regulations clarify the Québec Government's position on edible cannabis, specifically, "to meet the province's objectives in public health and safety."
The Québec Draft Regulations, along with the existing restrictions imposed by the Québec Government on growing cannabis plants at home, seem to open the door to future constitutional challenges, given the incoherence between federal and provincial laws over the subject matter.
As the 45-day consultation period for the Québec Draft Regulations elapses, Québec will continue to consolidate its framework prohibiting the sale of edible cannabis. Dentons Canada's leading Cannabis group will continue to work closely with policy makers, licensed producers, confectionary businesses and other key stakeholders, as well as providing timely insight on these important developments.
If you wish to discuss the Québec Draft Regulations to the Québec Cannabis Regulation Act, their possible implications for your business or the Canadian cannabis industry, please contact Scott Rozansky or Adam Allouba.
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