Ministers, parliamentary secretary and your officials, thank you for being here. My question concerns edibles. In October, Bill C-45 was amended to include edibles containing cannabis, but this amendment is not coming into force for one year after the act comes into place.
Edibles, of course, are a tricky issue in the debate over legalization. One concern is that ingesting cannabis is easier for the uninitiated than inhaling it. Edibles also take longer to have an effect, which can lead to unintended overconsumption. The biggest worry, of course, is that they can appeal to children and youth, especially if it comes in the form of candy or pastry. My concern is that by waiting a year to legalize and regulate edibles, we will allow the illicit and unregulated market to flourish in the meantime. You have said this is why you want to stop it, to protect our children and youth.
Now, I do appreciate the need for development of efficient regulation, but the task force on cannabis has already outlined what these regulations on edible products would look like, and they’ve borrowed from other jurisdictions that have gone through this experience. This includes packaging regulations, THC content, as well as standardized products that would not appeal to children. These initial regulations may prove not to be perfect if they were put into effect right now, but allowing legal edibles from the outset would deter Canadians from continuing to purchase and produce such items illegally.
Instead of waiting, would it not be more prudent to legalize and regulate edibles when the act comes into force with a mandated review of these regulations sometime in the near future?
Ms. Petitpas Taylor: Thank you very much, senator, for the question. The task force was very clear that if we choose and want to displace the black market, which is absolutely part of the objective of this legislation, we recognize that we are going to have to incorporate edibles within the regime. At this point in time, however, once again having learned from our friends and colleagues in Colorado, they’ve indicated that complex regulations have to be put in place in order to effectively implement edibles within the regime.
In your question, sir, you indicated the issue of overconsumption and accidental ingestions. Those are specific areas why we want to take our time and put the proper regulations in place. We recognize those regulations can be complex. So what we’ve decided for the coming into force of Bill C-45, once it becomes legal, is that Canadians will have access to dry cannabis, fresh cannabis and oils. If Canadians do choose that they want to make some type of edible products within their homes, they’ll absolutely be able to do so. Certainly moving forward, we have indicated that within one year after the coming into force, we will introduce edibles within the regime.
With that, we certainly also want to ensure that the proper regulations are in place and that the proper packaging will be available with the proper THC contents, and also, again, to make sure that public education and awareness is done so people are certainly aware of the issues of overconsumption and the rest of it.
Those are the types of reasons as to why we’re taking our time with respect to that part of it, because we certainly want to make sure we get it right. But we understand if we want to displace the black market, there’s a demand for those types of products, and we absolutely have to make sure they are going to be available to Canadians in due course.
Senator Eggleton: Allowing people to make these things in their homes leaves them unregulated, uncontrolled and at risk, particularly for children. As I pointed out, the illicit market continues during this period of time. So I would hope that you would get a handle on this just as quickly as you possibly can.
Another thing that needs to be dealt with is the question of marketing that could appeal to children and youth by the kinds of names that can be used for these substances. Strains being sold in other jurisdictions have names that could appeal to children. These include Fruity Pebbles, Candyland and Animal Cookies, to name just a few. These names would need to be clearly visible on the packaging for customers to differentiate between the products.
Will the government regulate the names of the strains of cannabis that are to be sold so that they do not appeal to children and youth?
Ms. Petitpas Taylor: Thank you for the very good question.
Under Bill C-45, we are certainly proposing that we’re going to have very strict and clear regulations and controls over what can be packaged, the labelling, the marketing and the advertising to children.
At the end of the day, we certainly want to make sure that any information that’s going to be present on the package will absolutely in no way be appealing or entice children to want to use those types of products. Again, in the proposed regulations that we have just finished the consultation on, we discussed exactly that.
With respect to the packaging as well, it’s very similar to plain packaging. Basically on the package, it will be very limited as to what information can be on there. Companies will not be able to use characters, animals or anything that would be appealing to children.
The information that needs to be on the package is the THC level or the CBD level so that Canadians can make informed decisions regarding the content of what they’re purchasing.
Finally, we want to make sure there are health warnings on the package. Those will be rotational types of health warnings like we see on tobacco products now.
When it comes to marketing to children, packaging and labelling, we absolutely want to have strict requirements to ensure that in no way this will be appealing to our children.