Canada's cannabis industry plans to push back against Quebec government draft regulations that would restrict the types of of cannabis edibles available for legal purchase in the province and set strict limits on the concentration of THC in cannabis extract products.
The draft regulations were unveiled by the Coalition Avenir Québec government in late July. If enacted as written, they would prevent government-owned Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC) stores — the only source of legal, non-medical cannabis in Quebec — from selling cannabis edibles that are "sweets, confectionery, dessert, chocolate or any other product attractive to minors." (Draft federal regulations that will permit the production and sale of cannabis edibles by the end of 2019 will already prohibit those products from appealing to kids, and child-proof packaging will be mandatory.)
Quebec's regulations would also prevent SQDC stores from selling non-edible cannabis products containing more than 30 per cent THC by weight, which would effectively ban any concentrated forms of cannabis like dabs or hashish. The regulations don't specifically mention cannabis topicals, but a Quebec government press release says those products will not be sold either.
The province's restrictive approach to the next generation of legal cannabis products won't actually keep those products away from Quebecers, said Michel Timperio, president of the cannabis division of Neptune Wellness Solutions and chair of the board of the Quebec Cannabis Industry Association.
"We all know that," said Timperio. "It's already on the internet, and (with) a couple of clicks you access these products, which are not in compliance with Health Canada's packaging or Health Canada's product dosage control (regulations), or what have you."
Timperio said the Quebec industry group plans to bring their perspective to the provincial government's attention.Advertisement
"Obviously we are going to be active, and hopefully we can be consulted, because we haven't been consulted," he said.
Timperio said Quebec's cannabis industry supports the provincial government's public health goals, but thinks restricting the sales of cannabis edibles will deprive the province of revenue that could be used for cannabis-related health education. He pointed out that no other other provinces have announced plans to limit sales of cannabis edibles and concentrates beyond the restrictions being put in place by the federal government.
"So are they less concerned about their youth? I don't think so… Going alone, the way we are going, I think, is showing lack of understanding, or maybe not enough in-depth engagement to what could be done. And I think as an industry, we can chip in and bring some ideas and suggestions that would comfort the (junior health) minister."
Greg Engel, CEO of major licensed cannabis producer and Quebec supplier Organigram, said his company plans to respond to the draft regulations on its own and through the national cannabis industry association Cannabis Council of Canada. Engel expressed concern that the proposed 30 per cent limit on THC concentrations in Quebec will make it hard to sell vape pens that consumers will want to use, since vape pens rely on highly-concentrated cannabis oil to deliver a vaporizable product in a small package.
"People would have to take multiple draws on it to have the same effect, so I'm not sure what the intent is in that case," Engel said.
"You're putting a restriction in place that is prohibitive to allowing the products as they exist today, and are being produced and formulated today, from actually entering the (regulated) market. And I think the challenge is, it does continue to allow the illicit market to thrive, if the legal market cannot produce and sell these products into the market."
Engel said he's hopeful that Organigram can discuss the issue with Quebec's government, and explain exactly how concentrated cannabis products like vape pens work.
"As we know in the U.S., in many states, they represent 25, 30 per cent of the market," he said. "So having that product available, I think, is critical to the success of the program."
If industry efforts fail to change the Quebec government's mind, Engel said, Organigram would have to consider whether or not to produce different products specifically for the province, which is home to roughly a quarter of Canada's population.
A spokesperson for Quebec's junior health minister Lionel Carmant, who introduced the draft regulations, said "cannabis regulation is a matter of public health, not economy" for Quebec's government.
"We need to protect the population, especially our children, from the repercussions of the legalization of cannabis," wrote Carmant's press secretary Maude Méthot-Faniel by email.
Quebec government representatives from the province's "ministry of economics" have met with cannabis industry representatives, she said.
"We believe that the industry will adapt and the SQDC will be responsible for choosing which products (fit) our regulations," added Méthot-Faniel.