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Strict rules for edibles

Chewy, colourful cannabis-infused gummies in bright colours and in the shape of animals or creatures are among the best-selling edible pot products on the black market — but Canadians shouldn't expect them on legal shelves.

Regulations that will make edibles legal come into force Oct. 17, exactly a year after Canada legalized the sale and purchase of dried and fresh cannabis, oil, seeds and plants. The rules laid out so far are aimed at keeping the new pot products out of the hands of kids and stipulate they can't be seen as "appealing to young persons" — but Health Canada has yet to provide additional details on exactly what crosses the line.

THC-infused gummy bears are unlikely to be among the new products set to hit legal shelves as early as December but companies are pushing ahead with pot-gummy plans they believe will allow them to eventually cash in on consumer demand without resorting to colourless and flavourless blobs.

A recent survey of Canadians conducted by Deloitte showed that current users' most-preferred edible format was a gummy at 26 per cent, followed by cookies at 23 per cent, brownies at 22 per cent and chocolate at 16 per cent.

Gummies are appealing to consumers for a variety of reasons, including portability and the ability to conceal them easily in public, said Rishi Malkani, a partner focusing on cannabis mergers and acquisitions for Deloitte.

"They're tiny, they're easily ingestible, you could do it quite discreetly... It's a little easier to transport or take with you to an event than brownies or other edibles, or even beverages for that matter."

The Canadian market for the soon-to-be-legalized goods is worth an estimated $2.7 billion annually, with edibles amounting to $1.6 billion alone, according to Deloitte.

The risks to children of such products were outlined in recent research by the Canadian Paediatric Society, which found that a "significant number of young children" required medical care after ingesting cannabis in the months surrounding legalization last October.

Health Canada has said edibles must not be "reasonably considered to be appealing to a young person" but has not stipulated which colours, flavours or shapes will be allowed.

"If a gummy bear is appealing to a young person, would that be permitted? The answer is no," one Health Canada official said.

The federal agency said that it would publish guidance that will outline the factors to be considered, but the additional details have yet to be released.

Meanwhile, companies are rushing to get production of these goods started as soon as possible to avoid the initial supply shortages seen in the wake of legalization last October.



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