In 2018, Canada became the second country in the world to legalize recreational marijuana, creating a multi-billion dollar industry. Now, that industry is moving into the kitchen.
Following amendments to Canada’s cannabis regulations announced in June, cannabis edibles will be hitting shelves and online shops in the Great White North by the end of 2019. But if you’re looking for cannabis-laced ice cream, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
The new regulations require all cannabis products to be shelf-stable, which means no refrigeration or freezing. You can also forget, in some cases, added sugar and caffeine. Furthermore, any products that might appeal to kids, like gummy bears, are a strict no-go.
“If you’re asking if a gummy bear is appealing to a young person, would that be permitted, the answer is no,” one Health Canada official told reporters at a briefing, as reported by CBC.
“The amended regulations under the Cannabis Act will support our overarching goal of keeping cannabis out of the hands of youth and protecting Canadians by helping to mitigate the health risks posed by these new cannabis products,” the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor Minister of Health said in a statement.
One such health risk, officials say, is overconsumption. But many critics complain that the resulting products will be wrapped in plain jane packaging and worse, leave tastebuds with a lot to be desired.
“They’re proposing that we sell sand,” said Jessika Villano, owner of Buddha Barn dispensary in Vancouver, to CTV News. “I think a lot of adults would like to have cannabis sugar in their tea.”
With the market so tightly regulated, some critics argue Canada is leaving money on the table. Others argue that such strict regulations will keep the black market demand for cannabis popsicles and other perishable products strong.
“If there’s a need, people are going to fill that need,” said Yannick Craigwell, founder of Vancouver’s Treatsandtreats, whose simple black packaging wouldn’t pass regulations due to the cut-out clear window and muffin logo. “If there’s a financial reward for filling that need, that’s the whole premise of the black market,” he told CTV News.
Ben and Jerry’s may have to put off their plans for the Canadian release of CBD ice cream for now, but that doesn’t mean every entrepreneur on the edibles playground has to pack up their toys and go home. Necessity can indeed be the mother of invention, some argue.
“You just have to think outside the box a little bit,” Samuel Bouabane of Cannabis Compliance, an Ontario-based cannabis consulting firm, said of companies who planned to release perishable products on the edibles market. For example, a cannabis company developing an Otter Pop-like frozen sugar-water could sell their Freezie product at room temperature, he told Leafly, then leave it to the customer to decide whether to sip or freeze solid.
Making perishable cannabis food items shelf stable just takes a little ingenuity, echoes Red Seal chef John MacNeil, who specializes in cannabis-infused cooking. Making cookies? Use coconut oil in place of butter. (Now those cookies are vegan, to boot.)
Bruce Linton is the CEO of Canopy Growth Corp., which makes a zero-calorie cannabis drink. While he admits the rules aren’t perfect yet, they are incredible — in a good way. There’s plenty of good news here for the Canadian edibles market, he says, perishable or not.
“In the context of how governments normally work, this is astounding,” Linton told CTV News. “The government of Canada has come up with how you can drink and eat cannabis and are regulating it at a federal level and are selling it through provincially controlled stores. Are you sure we’re not making all this stuff up?”