Health Canada recently released new regulations that set the stage for the next wave of cannabis legalization.
Starting late this year, regulations will permit various new forms for the consumption of cannabis such as edibles, drinkables, topicals, and vape pens, moving the industry towards more consumer-packaged goods and away from our current limited legal offerings.
I firmly believe that this is key to reducing the stigma around cannabis and encouraging broader acceptance of the drug.
Canadians will be forced to check their pre-conceived notions of a cannabis consumer when their loved ones choose a skin cream with cannabinoids in it for pain relief rather than a similar brand without them. Opinions change when a person can consume cannabis in a format that they already know how to use (creams, pills, drinks, food), from brands they already know and trust, which result in a consistent, desired effect.
For the most part, everyone agrees that the idea of moving to these new formats and away from smoking is a good move.
Health Canada has long advocated smoking cessation for tobacco products, and both medical and adult-use cannabis consumers have advocated for different and better cannabis products.
But that is where the agreements end.
Advocates in the cannabis space are clear that the limits on cannabinoid content amounts allowed per package are woefully leading to increased costs to consumers as well as a larger environmental footprint due to increased packaging.
Health Canada believes it is taking a prudent approach while adopting the cannabis mantra of start low and go slow.
This division between the cannabis industry and Health Canada is not a surprise to any person or company observing the government’s approach to the product.
It is clear that Health Canada is taking what they believe to be a public health approach while the cannabis industry is taking more or a medical patient and/or adult-use consumer approach.
While both positions are valid, it is important to remember the legalization promise has its roots in Liberal campaign documents where the promise was geared at ridding Canada of black-market products which are still readily available in Canada. In other words, consumer choices still rule the day and that choice is not necessarily the legal path.
Cannabis legalization got a huge boost in the last federal campaign.
The industry is accustomed to working with policymakers and may even relish the watershed policy moves that campaigns make possible.
With these new regulations coming mere days from the next federal election in October, some see more such watershed moments on the horizon.
As a veteran of many political campaigns, I can tell you that campaigns are an uncertain time for thoughtful policy.
With a tough federal election battle shaping up, these regulations and resulting products could be a contested topic in the fight for the hearts and minds of undecided voters. If that happens, we can be sure that both the public health approach and the consumer approach could lose.
— Will Stewart is a senior vice-president of Harvest One Cannabis, a global cannabis company.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019