Although the products only become legal for sale in Canada on Thursday, Wood has been making her own at home for a while: She began using medicinal cannabis in 2009, for pain management as a breast cancer patient.
Using legal cannabis — including the harvest from her own legally grown plants — Wood uses a Magical Butter machine to extract oil from dry cannabis.
“You can infuse butter; you can infuse olive oil and cook with it,” said Wood, who lives in Regina.
“Brownies, cookies — when you make it in butter, you can put it in any recipe that calls for butter.”
She combines gelatin, juice and cannabis extract to make gummy candies.
But vaping is her favourite way to consume cannabis, “because it’s immediate, where with an edible it can take up to 90 minutes” to feel the drug’s effect.
In anticipation of this second wave of legalized cannabis in Canada, vaping accessories have been increasing in sales, said Lucid Cannabis CEO Mike Podmoroff.
Cannabis extracts for vaping will be legal for retail sale as of Oct. 17, along with edibles and topicals (lotions).
This comes exactly one year after dried cannabis became legal for sale at licensed retailers.
Just like the initial legalization, it’s going to be a while before products are in stores.
“There’s a 60-day period where we have to provide notice to Health Canada, the federal regulator, of the products that we’re going to offer, and then they will go through that list and approve them one by one,” said Jordan Sinclair, spokesman for Tweed.
“So they will be available (in stores) before Christmas.”
Tweed has retail stores in Regina, Saskatoon, Fort Qu’Appelle, Humboldt, Melville and Meadow Lake, as well as elsewhere in Canada.
Sinclair said customers have been curious about the new products, and many already come shopping assuming they can buy edibles or extracts.
“So the first year of legalization, that means you’re kind of starting that retail experience by disappointing the person,” said Sinclair.
Edmonton-based company Lucid has one store in Regina, but Podmoroff couldn’t say exactly how its inventory would expand given these newly legal products.
“Details are sketchy,” because of the Health Canada regulations.
“I think it’s a bit of an evolving process for (producers) as well, because Health Canada has to be involved in every aspect right down to the packaging, what’s the percentage of the active ingredient per millilitre of volume and all that stuff,” said Podmoroff.
He added, “We don’t have a catalogue, for instance. We don’t know exactly what SKUs are going to be available and what types of formats.”
However, Podmoroff expects the first wave of products will be relatively mainstream, and not “fringe items there might be a small demand for.”
At Tweed — which, in addition to retail, has growing and processing facilities in Saskatchewan — two product priorities are cannabis-infused beverages and cannabis-infused chocolate.
For the former, “Our goal here is to create an alternative to an alcoholic beverage,” said Sinclair.
“What we’re trying to do is to give almost a microdose experience, so that somebody can have a number of these drinks, akin to the way that they would have one or two drinks with their dinner, and then another one afterwards,” said Sinclair.
Tweed’s main production facility in Smiths Falls, Ont., is in a former Hershey’s chocolate factory.
“We always thought it would be amazing if somehow we could bring some element of chocolate production back to this facility, because it opened in the ’60s,” said Sinclair.
“We’ve got the technology to be able to take a lot of that plant taste away from it, so that the chocolate is going to taste like chocolate; it’s not going to taste like weed inside of chocolate.”
Pricing on these products has yet to be determined.
KNOW THE LAW
In October 2018, it became legal to possess up to 30 grams of legal cannabis, dried or equivalent.
That doesn’t change with these new product options.
According to the federal Department of Justice, one gram of dried cannabis translates to five grams of fresh cannabis, 15 grams of edible product, 70 grams of liquid product, 0.25 grams of concentrates, or one cannabis plant seed.
So, someone could legally possess up to 450 grams of edibles, or 2.1 litres of a cannabis-infused beverage, for example.
TAKE IT SLOW
When you’re trying edibles for the first time, “the secret is slow and low (dose),” said Wood. “That would be my advice to anybody trying edibles, is don’t do a bunch.
“You have to find out what works for you, because what works for one isn’t always for the other, right?”
Edibles may have a maximum of 10 milligrams of THC per package, according to Health Canada.
“Some people will be good with a 2.5 milligram dose, for example. Other people need four times that before they start to feel it. So the recommendation is to start low and to not rush it,” Sinclair agreed.
When you inhale cannabis, the effect is relatively immediate — within 15 minutes, you’ll feel a high. But “(when) you ingest the cannabis,” said Sinclair, “it takes a couple hours for it to kick in, but then it lasts a lot longer.
“The last thing that we want is for somebody to ingest a little dose, and then assume it didn’t work because they haven’t felt anything in 30 minutes, so take two or three times more, not knowing that the original dose hasn’t yet kicked in. Because that’ll lead to an uncomfortable feeling.”
Michael Szafron’s biggest concern about the new wave of legalized products relates to public safety.
As a member of the University of Saskatchewan-based Cannabinoid Research Initiative of Saskatchewan, Szafron’s interest is in public health and policy relating to cannabis legalization.
“My concern is that the products should not resemble anything that would look enticing to children. And so the policy is they’re supposed to put it in plain packaging, not make it look enticing for people,” said Szafron, an associate professor in the school of public health.
“But they don’t say you can’t make gummy bears, you can’t make lollipops, you know what I mean? They don’t go that far.”
He worries that as soon as a product is removed from its packaging, there’s no way of telling whether it’s a normal candy, brownie or beverage, or whether it contains cannabis.
“A child, they’re going to see just the candy. Even if you tried explaining to them that they shouldn’t eat it, they’re going to have a hard time (understanding),” Szafron said.
He hopes households with children will keep their cannabis safely out of reach.
Children’s safety wasn’t Szafron’s only concern.
He believes the legal age limit being 19 in Saskatchewan, and 18 in some other provinces, is too low.
He said women cognitively develop until age 23, and men until age 27, and that THC can alter brain development.
He also said there is “observational evidence” that THC can activate certain genes that trigger mental illness.
Szafron said the effectiveness of cannabis lotions or oils has not been proven to work through skin absorption: “The research hasn’t been done.”
He said based on clinical trials, cannabis is proven to reduce seizures, help with pain management, and stimulate appetite.
“Anything else, not been shown, and based on probably anecdotes,” said Szafron.
Szafron advises “education, education, education.”
“There’s so much misinformation about cannabis out there, that you could end up in trouble very quickly if you don’t get your information from a reliable source,” he said.
“And I really wish the federal and provincial governments would have been proactive and provided to the public the best knowledge that we have to date ahead of time for people, so that way you can make an informed decision,” he added.
“People assume because it’s being legalized by the government, it must be safe; why else would they have legalized it, right? And so there’s this implicit trust.”