Although marijuana will be legalized in Canada as of the first of July, the government has decided to delay the legalization of edibles by another year and is setting its sights on July 2019. This delay has sparked a debate amongst groups on both sides of that fence, with one group agreeing that the delay displays good, common sense while the other side regards this as a half-baked plan. No matter which side of the fence you fall on, there’s no denying that there are compelling arguments for both sides.
On the one hand, edibles are regarded as the riskiest part of the weed industry. The government feels that there is a lack of public knowledge about how edibles work, and is buying time while officials work out the logistics of regulation so that certain pitfalls can be avoided. For instance, edibles are not consistent from producer to producer, or even batch to batch. It can be really hard to know exactly what we’re getting and, furthermore, weed novices don’t have any idea of what a proper, healthy dosage looks like. One of the most prominent examples of this was when esteemed New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd famously wrote in 2014 about her experience with Colorado edibles. Dowd, who is not a regular cannabis consumer and had no knowledge at the time about how long edibles take to have an effect, consumed a cannabis-infused candy bar and subsequently suffered an entire night of what she described as panting and paranoia. She said that there weren’t any warnings or dosage recommendations on the label.
States like Colorado legalized edibles right out of the gate yet hit a whole lot of snags that they were neither prepared for nor equipped to deal with. Their initial regulations were rather lax, with no standardized dosage and hardly any restrictions, and resulted in a spike in cannabis-related hospital visits and calls to poison centers. A 19-year-old jumped to his death from a balcony after consuming a cannabis cookie in 2014. There were also issues with edibles, such as gummy bears, that too closely resembled kids candy and resulted in the hospitalization of a number of children. It’s really no surprise that Colorado public health officials endorse Canada’s proposed delay, while Canada regards what happened in the States as a sort of cautionary tale.
As the government statement explains, “Designing an appropriate regulatory system for cannabis edibles is a complex undertaking and there are unique potential health risks and harms that need to be carefully understood before the development and coming into place of these regulations”. Stretching the timeline for putting together a regulatory framework therefore gives both the government and the industry an opportunity to carefully plan and prepare.
On the other hand, those who oppose the delay in Canada argue that people will continue to buy their edibles but will be forced to go to the unregulated black market to do so. After all, edibles are discreet and also pose fewer health risks than smoking. Ryan Vandrey, a John Hopkins University professor, has studied the effects of marijuana at great length and detected no difference in its effects whether you smoke or consume edibles. The difference is in the time it takes to hit (edibles travel through the digestive system while smoking goes through the respiratory system). The danger stems from when people prematurely ingest larger doses because they don’t feel anything yet, which can be remedied with simple education.
Demand for edibles is also high, with nearly half of the Canadian population willing to try edibles once they’re commercialized. On top of that, the black market is filled with offerings from cookies and brownies to teas, sodas and breakfast spreads. So any delay in legalization is hardly going to prevent people from getting their hands on edibles, if that’s what they really want. The black market will be the clear winner here.
Besides, the emergency call centers report far more incidents related to alcohol and prescription medication than they do marijuana. Children also consume all kinds of things besides marijuana that cause much greater harm. It boils down to basic common sense. People ought to be careful and responsible with the storage of their edibles, much like you’d keep guns, alcohol or pills out of the reach of children.
Finally, those opposed to the delay express that it is unlikely that studies will produce any new findings about edibles that we’re not already aware of. Meanwhile, in addition to aiding the black market, they also feel that the edible delay will be a detriment to people with chronic illnesses who are too sick to make their own products or who want their medication to last longer.
The one thing that everyone can agree on is that there is a lot to sort out with this complex issue. What do you think about Canada’s plans? Is this in the best interest of public safety, or is the government dragging things out with a lot of unnecessary red tape? We’d love to hear your thoughts.