Removing limits on legal edibles could protect kids

Published Aug 12, 2021 11:00 a.m. ET
iStock / HighGradeRoots

Canada completely legalized cannabis for medicinal and recreational use, offering the world a wealth of examples and information concerning what might happen after they too decide to welcome a green industry. So far, most of what we’ve learned is exactly as most would have expected. The sky didn’t fall. People didn’t suddenly start crashing their cars or forgetting to show up to work, and for the most part, cannabis businesses were welcomed with open arms, even by those who didn’t need them.

Society as a whole didn’t really change at all for the worse. In fact, some things went far better than we expected, as consumers started dropping other more harmful addictions like tobacco or alcohol for cannabis. It opened up doors for essential research, and it lined the pockets of regular everyday Canadians who chose to take a leap and be part of it all. Legalization, though implemented with hesitation, has been amazing, but some point to a slight increase in kids getting their hands on edibles as a problem that is imperative to address.

The misconception

Canada enforces some of the strictest regulations in the world when it comes to edibles, cannabis-infused drinks or food that can be enjoyed with the added bonus of a buzz. We maintain a low 10mg limit per package for food, and similar guidelines for drinks, while also limiting the number that an individual can buy in a single visit. There are no 6-packs of anything because they’d break the rules, and there are no chocolate bars that are going to launch your mind to the moon.

Only a minimally infused taste of what so many had hoped for is available for purchase, and it’s all supposedly restricted this way in the name of safety, mainly for children. It sort of makes sense when you first hear that, as so many of us know what a bad trip feels like, and the last ones we want to see feeling that are the kids. They’re innocent, with brains that are still developing, and when rates of emergency visits for accidental consumption of edibles went up with the introduction of legalization, the government decided that it was best to avoid making too much of a good thing.

Facts

This risk of accidental overdoses involving children is substantiated with data from hospitals across the country, all reporting an uptick in cases in the months following legalization. The trouble is that no one took the time to decipher what it really meant, and it appears that we got it all wrong. If you take a moment and really look at all of the media headlines that talk about this, it doesn’t take long to find a common denominator, and it’s not the potency or number of edibles that are the problem, it’s the fact that these disguised treats are often mistaken for regular foods or candy.

At first, this might seem like a perfectly valid reason to continue diligently protecting cannabinoid maximums while also considering stricter rules surrounding which treats can be offered and what they can look like, but it’s not quite so simple. A little more digging, and you’ll soon find that this trend of emergency room visits for kids due to the accidental consumption of edibles began almost immediately after legalization was introduced, an entire year before a single legal edible was available for purchase which means that legal edibles are even close to part of the problem.

What legal edibles can do to better protect kids

Black market edibles are the only ones who can get away with deceiving and convincing packaging often mimicking a real-life products like Doritos, Mars Bars, or Nerds Rope. They are also the only suppliers who were in business right from the beginning, and in some cases, prior to legalization, and that makes this undiscussed portion of the industry primarily responsible for accidental consumption situations involving youth. Now you might say, but the trend has continued consistently despite the release of legal edibles, but edibles sales haven't quite been as good as some experts predicted.

Strict and low cannabinoid limits simply aren’t high enough to serve long-time consumers with a higher tolerance, forcing many to turn to the black market, which, as we mentioned, packaging these sweet treats in deceiving ways that are difficult for adults to see through, nevermind children. But they’re stronger, more powerful, much more affordable, and available with zero purchasing limits, and that makes them far more appealing to the average enthusiast. Even those who wish to support the legal industry feel they have no choice if they want to continue to enjoy the products in the strengths they know and love.

Legal cannabis edibles look nothing like a package of average candy, with plant labels, obvious symbols, and no colours that kids might find to be appealing. There are no pictures of what could be inside, and in many cases, they even come in child-resistant packaging which makes it much harder for youth to get into. These treats are designed for and marketed to only legal-aged adults and it would be impossible for someone to take them without knowing exactly what they were doing.

Since legal weed edibles aren’t the problem, and we know that black market varieties are, and we’re well aware of the reason that so many turn to them, it only makes sense to raise or eliminate the limits that are currently in place. If we want safe packaging, transparent marketing, and ultimately fewer kids in emergency situations because they accidentally ate a pack of THC gummies that looked just like the real thing, then we need to make changes that will entice parents to shop legal cannabis. Not limit what they can buy, in hopes that they won’t find or look for something better.

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