October 17, 2018 will forever be known in history as the day Canada took the (nearly) unprecedented step of legalizing the possession and sale of non-medical cannabis on a national scale. Since then several countries, including South Korea and Thailand, have legalized medical cannabis. Other countries seem to be following more closely in Canada’s footsteps, with South Africa’s Supreme Court recently voting to legalize the private, adult consumption of cannabis. Mexico’s government has signaled its intention to legalize and regulate cannabis, and New Zealand will hold a referendum on cannabis legalization in 2020.
The United States continues to be a lucrative market for companies willing to do business there, despite the risk of a potential federal crackdown on state-licensed cannabis companies. Recreational cannabis is now legal in 11 states and the District of Columbia, and the booming industry shows no signs of stopping on either side of the border.
For cannabis enthusiasts across Canada, October 17 was undoubtedly a momentous occasion. For the first time, an adult consumer could walk into a licensed store or visit a government-run website and legally purchase cannabis. Initial product offerings were limited to dried bud and ingestible oil products (such as gel caps and oral sprays), but quickly attracted huge demand from consumers, as reports from day one sales illustrate.
At the end of October 2018, Canada had 100 licensed cannabis retailers. Now, we have over 550! The first few months of legalization were exciting, but at times frustrating – as logistical issues and supply shortages resulted in retailers in some provinces having to temporarily close their doors. Over time these issues will likely be resolved as the industry continues to develop, and as consumers increasingly turn to the legal market. Already, almost half of Canadian cannabis consumers report purchasing at least some of their weed from a legal source, and that number is sure to grow as more formats of cannabis products become available in the near future.
You’ve likely come across the term online, in a newspaper, or in conversation with friends: Legalization 2.0. It certainly sounds futuristic, but what does it mean for cannabis legalization in Canada? After a year of legalization, what’s left to legalize? As it turns out – lots!
Dried bud and ingestible oils are just two of many ways to consume cannabis. As of October 17, 2019, three new categories of products will be legal: edibles, concentrates and topicals. But don’t get too excited; although the regulations came into force on October 17, no ‘legalization 2.0’ products will be available for purchase until December 17 at the earliest. This is due to a requirement that Licensed Producers must provide Health Canada with 60 days’ notice ahead of new product launches.
Let’s take a brief look at the three new categories of products:
Edibles: Includes cannabis-infused food and beverages (like CBD kombucha).
Concentrates: Includes shatter, wax, budder, rosin and oil vape pen cartridges, as well as cannabis oil products made from concentrates.
Topicals: Includes cannabis-infused topical creams and ointments.
On October 17, 2019, Canadians were granted access to three new categories of cannabis products… almost. It will still be a couple months until these products start showing up on shelves at licensed retailers, but there is already considerable excitement from consumers nevertheless. For people who want to enjoy cannabis without the negative health effects associated with inhaling it, there will be a lot more variety to choose from.
However, not everyone is happy about the new regulations. For some consumers, 10mg of THC (the maximum allowable content per package of edibles) is far too small a dose – particularly for experienced consumers who might be accustomed to much higher levels of THC. Further, the requirement for edibles to be ‘shelf stable’ limits product variety by effectively banning certain beverages and frozen food products like THC-infused ice cream.
Though it might not be possible to satisfy every consumer’s ideal product portfolio while at the same time following a public health approach that aims to prevent children’s access to these products, legalization 2.0 is surely a progressive step in the right direction. Only time will tell what the next phase of cannabis legalization will look like, and we can’t wait to find out!