Edible cannabis products (such as candies and cookies) will be authorized for sale starting in October. This “second wave” of cannabis legalization raises concerns surrounding the appeal and dangers of edible cannabis products.
Cases of cannabis intoxication in children
On May 17, 2019, the Montreal Children’s Hospital sounded the alarm concerning edible cannabis products. The hospital has treated 26 cases of cannabis intoxication or use among minors since October 17, 2018. Most of the children had eaten cannabis-laced cookies or brownies left out by parents. While often accidental, this type of intoxication raises concerns about the appeal of food products that happen to contain cannabis. In an interview with Le Devoir, Dr Dominic Chalut, an emergency physician and toxicologist with the Montreal Children’s Hospital explained that cannabis has significant effects on children. According to medical reports, intoxication symptoms can range from a loss of balance and vomiting to violent convulsions in more serious cases. Dr Chalut warns against the commercialization of edible cannabis products: “We have to protect our children against these types of products. Most of all, as a society, we have to ask ourselves if we really want psychoactive drugs added in to innocuous and appealing food products like candies or cookies.
Studies show that THC is not absorbed in the same way when it is ingested as part of an edible cannabis product. Because it can take several hours before the effects of derived products are felt, people may ingest much larger doses and run the risk of overdosing. Cannabis-laced edibles do not necessarily contain higher concentrations of THC (the active molecule in cannabis), but consumers may nonetheless ingest more THC because the sweet taste and delayed effects of the edibles incite them to eat more of them.
While smoking cannabis is very popular among young people, they are aware of the effects of smoking on the human body. Like cigarettes, cannabis has a bad reputation. Marketing cannabis as an edible product may detract from its dangers and incite more young people to give it a try. This is similar to what has happened over the past few years with the new generation of electronic cigarettes. The appeal of the product, and its purported innocuity, led to a sharp rise in consumption rates among North American youth.
A Question of Profit
Despite major problems at start-up, the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC) sold more than 70 million dollars worth of cannabis in the six months following legalization. The introduction of cannabis edibles is a huge plus for producers and resellers. According to SQDC CEO Jean-François Bergeron, the SQDC forecasts 20 million dollars in profits from the sale of cannabis edibles. Québec ranks second for cannabis sales, after Alberta.
There is no lack of investors for edible cannabis products. Canopy Growth, a Canadian company specializing in the production of medical cannabis, recently closed a five-billion-dollar deal with multinational Constellation Brands (the distributor of Corona beer). The aim is to develop cannabis-based beverages. The general manager of Canopy Growth expects there will be a huge demand for these products. Music to the ears of all “green gold” investors.
While the sale of edible cannabis products will be legalized as of October 17, 2019, they are already available online. A recent search under the keywords “edible cannabis” identified several sites that are already offering cannabis edibles. These online resellers must secure an ID and credit card information from their customers. One of the sites we tested only requested a valid Canadian address and an e-transfer (an online money transfer). They did not request an ID to process orders for cannabis-laced edibles. Worse, the site identified itself as a medical marijuana retailer. Medical marijuana retailers must request a prescription delivered by an attending physician. It appears to be extremely easy to purchase edible cannabis products online despite the fact it is currently illegal to do so.
The state of Colorado serves as a documented example of the sharp increase in the number of daily cannabis users following the introduction of cannabis-based products. The legalization of edible cannabis may be a boon to producers and industries, but no one can predict its impact on cannabis use among Canadian youth.