Although new cannabis regulations regarding the legalization of edibles, extracts, and topicals will come into force on Oct. 19, as promised, Canadians will have to wait until mid-December before they will be able to purchase them in stores and online.

On Friday, the federal government announced amendments to its regulations governing the legal production and sale of edibles, extracts, and topicals.

Under the new rules, licensed producers will be required to provide Health Canada with 60 days notice of their intent to sell new cannabis products. The government agency will begin accepting those notifications on Oct. 17.

Because federal cannabis licence holders will need time to comply with the new regulations and provincial and territorial distributors and retailers will need to obtain the products before sale, government officials said consumers should expect to see a “limited selection” of edible products in stores and online in mid-December, at the earliest.

In addition to the timeline for the introduction of legal edibles to the market, government officials released specific regulations on the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound which produces a high, allowed in each package.

For cannabis edibles, such as baked goods and beverages, a maximum of 10 mg of THC per package will be permitted.

“Limiting the amount of THC to 10 mg lowers the risk of a serious adverse reaction, including the risk of hospitalization when it is accidentally consumed by an adult or a child,” officials said.

Cannabis extracts, such as vaping liquids, wax, and oil, will be limited to 10 mg of THC per unit, such as a capsule, and 1,000 mg per package.

Lastly, the amount of THC for topical products, such as creams, lotions, and balms, will be restricted to 1,000 mg of THC per package.

As is already the case with vaping rules, the types of ingredients that can be used in these edible products will also be regulated in order to discourage young people from taking them.

For example, ingredients such as sugars, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, sweeteners, and colourants will be prohibited from these products.

The packaging, too, will be restricted with only plain, child-resistant packaging allowed so as not to appeal to younger people. The packaging will also be prohibited from containing elements that would associate them with alcoholic beverages, tobacco, or vaping products.

“The amended regulations are the next step in our process to reduce the risks to public health and safety from edible cannabis, cannabis extracts and cannabis topicals and displace the illegal market for these products in Canada,” Bill Blair, the minister of border security and organized crime reduction, said in a statement.

Health concerns

In addition to the new rules, the federal government took the opportunity to caution cannabis users about the potential health effects of consuming edible products.

Government officials advised Canadians to “start low” and “go slow” when consuming cannabis because it can take longer for the full effects of impairment to be felt. Consumers should look for products containing 2.5 mg of THC or less and wait to feel the effects before taking more.

“It can take up to two hours to begin to feel the effects of cannabis that you eat or drink, and up to four hours to feel the full effects, unlike the effects of smoking or vaping cannabis, which can be felt within minutes,” health officials said.

The government also said these effects can be felt for up to 12 hours, which means users should avoid driving or operating heavy equipment.

Cannabis users were also warned to store edibles away from children, youth, and pets.

“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,” Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said in a statement.