Edible cannabis is coming, eventually, retailers vow

Order Up: Budtender Adam Chammoury at Queen of Bud, one of Calgary’s cannabis dispensaries on Sept. 16. Chammoury is “excited” for the legalization of cannabis edibles to take effect next month, and advises consumers to adopt the practice “start low, go slow.” (Photo by Keane Straub/The Press)

Budtenders from Calgary dispensaries are serving up mixed reactions in the weeks leading up to the legalization of cannabis edibles on Oct. 17.

The second wave of cannabis legalization is set to bring edible products such as cookies, gummies and beverages, all infused with cannabis, to retailers as early as December.

However, dispensaries said they are erring on the side of caution when speaking with customers about product availability.

“Everything [in the cannabis industry] comes at its own pace, especially with Health Canada having to regulate the products as they are made,” said Adam Chammoury, a budtender at Queen of Bud in Calgary.

In July, the Government of Canada’s website posted amended regulations to the Cannabis Act to include edibles.

The updated regulations state that federally licensed processors will need time to become familiar with the new rules and to produce new products.

The regulations also state that provincially or territorially, authorized distributors and retailers will also need time to purchase the new products and make them available for sale.

This is in addition to the current requirement for licensed retailers to give 60 days notice to Health Canada of their intent to sell new products.

While customers are aware of these wait times, Chammoury said he tells most of the customers he talks to not to expect anything until the beginning of next year.

“If something does come in by December, it will be a nice little Christmas treat.”

As illustrated in an infographic created by Alberta Health Services, the active ingredient in cannabis edibles, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), enters the bloodstream via the stomach and liver, and can take anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes to take effect.

These effects can last anywhere from four to 12 hours, depending on the individual and the amount ingested.

The Government of Canada’s website said the maximum amount of THC per packaged edible is 10 milligrams, a regulation that has raised some concerns in dispensaries.

This regulation means that one cookie containing the maximum dose would have its own individual packaging, rather than six of those cookies coming packaged together.

“Packaging is a huge issue, and it’s only going to get worse with the way edibles have to be sold,” said Jordan Lopes, a budtender at Beltline Cannabis in Calgary.

Chammoury agrees, and said the amount of waste in the industry is by far the most he has seen in any job he has held.

Other regulations surrounding packaging state that it must be child resistant and plain, so as not to be appealing to children.

Even for individuals who can legally purchase edibles, the idea of infused candies or chocolates can be deceiving.

“A lot of people overlook the fact that, when you’re buying edibles, you need to use the same precautions as you would when you go to the liquor store,” Chammoury said.

Alberta Health Services’ infographic also said that an increase in emergency room visits is associated with overconsumption of edibles by adults, often due to the fact that the effects are not felt right away.

While there has been verbal communication among businesses when it comes to the legalization of edibles, Chammoury said a lot of his knowledge comes from personal experience.

“We’ve all done our own research,” said Chammoury.

Chammoury said representatives from other companies have come in and given budtenders an idea of what to expect,  but they have not been given anything tangible.

“Everything [in the cannabis industry] comes at its own pace, especially with Health Canada having to regulate the products as they are made.” – Adam Chammoury

John Chanthaseng, another budtender at Beltline Cannabis, said there are other underlying issues when it comes to producing and selling any cannabis product.

“There’s inconsistent product testing, and inconsistent filling of product.”

Chanthaseng said the inconsistencies lead to current products often containing less than the listed dosage.

He added that edibles will undoubtedly be subjected to these inconsistencies, affecting both customer experience and sales.