Updated: Feb 3
The Canadian adult-use cannabis market is known for its tight restrictions, including no celebrity endorsement in advertising and what some have criticized as boring packaging, among many other elements of the country's pot oversight. In February 2023, Canadian media began reporting of a new marijuana product category being used by large companies such as Aurora Cannabis to skirt regulations that limit the potency of edibles such as gummies.
In most U.S. and Canadian jurisdictions, cannabis concentrates and extracts can feature much stronger levels of delta-9 THC, the chief psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis and cannabis products, than edible products. Thus, companies such as Aurora are attempting to categorize very potent edibles as "chewable extracts" to allow these products to avoid Canada's infamously strict potency regulations.
Companies such as Aurora are attempting to categorize very potent edibles as "chewable extracts" to allow these products to avoid Canada's infamously strict potency regulations.
While jurisdictions such as California and many others in the U.S. have defined the edible dosing standard as 10 mg THC per portion and a total of 100 mg THC per package, Canada limits its edible products to only 10 mg THC per package. Thus, a 10-portion package, to comply with the strict law, would involve portions featuring one (1) mg of THC (what most experts would agree is a relatively weak dose that would result in minimal impact on many consumers).
Concentrate/extract products in Canada, on the other hand, can include up to 1000 mg of THC per package. With a simple recategorization move, companies like Aurora have attempted to lift the 10 mg limit on edibles products and replace it with one that is 100 times greater.
Health Canada, which plays an intimate role in management of Canada's adult-use cannabis market, has responded by saying that such chewable extracts are "non-compliant products" that do not satisfy its regulations. Another problem: Concentrate/extract products may contain no added sugar or sweetners—something that is difficult to achieve in the world of gummies.
Health Canada Responds
"Health Canada is in the process of working with implicated license holders to return them to compliance with...regulations," said Tammy Jarbeau, a spokesperson for Health Canada. However, some Canadian weed companies have pushed back, claiming they were obeying regulations when they introduced chewable extract products.
"Some have criticized Canada's exceptionally low THC limit for edibles, noting that many patients and consumers are being pushed to the underground."
Some have criticized Canada's exceptionally low THC limit for edibles, noting that many patients and consumers are being pushed to the underground. According to the Cannabis Council of Canada, the nation's ultra-low THC limits for edibles will drive millions of dollars worth of business away from legal channels and into the hands of unlicensed underground producers.
"We would estimate that it's probably a $400-500 million category gift to the illicit market," reported the organization's president and CEO George Smitherman. Health Canada is receiving jabs from not only non-profits, but also corporate players such as Aurora. "Aurora firmly believes the legal cannabis market needs novel approaches that Canadian consumers seek, to fight the illicit market that operates without any rules or oversight. The real risk to Canadians is not from legal cannabis producers," said Aurora spokesperson Michelle Lefler.
Alana Armstrong at Alan Aldous in Toronto
According to Alana Armstrong, head publicist and content strategist at Toronto-based public relations firm Alan Aldous, cannabis consumers and the industry overall benefit from companies that "test boundaries" as with the introduction of innovative product categories such as chewable extracts. Armstrong described the Canadian adult-use market as "begging for this kind of product since the beginning."
"The use of this edible extract loophole is a more democratic way for companies, large and small, to offer something new, exciting, and competitive to a market."
"Personally, I was happy to see companies innovate within the regulations to bring new products to the market that gave consumers more flexibility than 10 mg THC edibles per package," Armstrong told Higher Learning LV in an exclusive interview. "Professionally, I saw the use of this edible extract loophole as a more democratic way for companies, large and small, to offer something new, exciting, and competitive to a market," she noted.
"If cannabis companies and industry organizations don't attempt to test boundaries in this way, we all lose," concluded Armstrong.
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