Will consumers dig legal edibles if their current supply can take them higher?
A second wave of legalization is upon us
Canadians can expect to see some cannabis edibles, concentrates and topicals on shelves soon – in a couple of months, at the earliest.
On Oct. 17, licensed producers could begin submitting their edible and topical products to Health Canada, where they will be subjected to a 60- to 90-day approval and procurement process. This means a limited selection of products will gradually appear in dispensaries or online stores no earlier than mid-December 2019.
In other words, Oct. 17 was simply one of many hurdles for edibles to reach the legal Canadian market.
The new rules
The new regulations cover four categories of cannabis products: edibles, such as baked goods or beverages; ingestible extracts, such as oils and capsules; concentrates (inhalable extracts) such as wax and vaping liquid; and topical products, such as ointments and lotions.
Under the new rules, edible cannabis can only be sold in packages containing a maximum of 10 mg of THC (the psychoactive element of cannabis), with no nicotine or added alcohol and limits on caffeine. The products must be in child-resistant packaging, shelf stable, cannot be appealing to children and must contain ingredients and nutritional information.
All product packaging must include the standardized cannabis symbol for products containing THC, a health warning message and the THC/CBD content. Additionally, the new regulations prohibit any elements in these products that could associate them with alcoholic beverages or brands.
Legal vs. black market
If you know anything about dosing cannabis, you’d know that 10 mg of THC per package equates to only one to two servings. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these limitations, unless you compare them to what edible consumers are used to getting in the black market.
Illegal edibles – while often inconsistently labelled in terms of THC content – generally contain anywhere from 10 mg to upwards of 1,000 mg of THC per package. They take the form of gummies, chocolate bars, brownies and other baked goods.
While we don’t yet know the prices of legal edibles, which are bound to vary by brand, if the price of cannabis flower is any indication, legal edibles are likely going to be considered a ripoff in terms of price and overall value.
So if legal edibles are only going to offer consumers a fraction of what they are used to in the black market, why would they make the switch? Well, it is likely that many people won’t buy it. According to the National Cannabis Survey released in August 2019, just over four in 10 cannabis consumers, 42 per cent, reported purchasing at least some of their cannabis from illegal sources. My prediction is that the same thing will happen with edibles.
How the legal market can appeal to black market consumers
If the government wants to eliminate black market edibles (which is unlikely to happen anytime soon), they are going to have to capitalize on a few things.
First, they are going to be more regulated than illegal edibles, so the dosage is likely going to be more reliable. Second, they should be targeting older audiences and those who do not want to experience intense euphoria.
But if the government wants longtime edible consumers to make the switch to the legal side, here’s what they should be doing: increasing the amount of THC per package. The package should have recommended dosages depending on the user’s experience and how they want to feel. Much like alcohol, cannabis can be abused, but it is up to the consumer to use it responsibly.
Even though we won’t be seeing edibles on the shelves for the time being, for the future, remember to start low and go slow.