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Provinces are waiting for the federal regulations on legal edibles to come into place no later than Oct. 17.
We spoke with Avery Bruenjes, the Retail Council of Canada’s policy analyst for government relations and regulatory affairs, who’s scheduled to address the Retail Cannabis Forum on Monday at the Toronto Congress Centre in Etobicoke, Ont.
Q. How do you define an edible?
A. Loosely, it’s a product that contains cannabis that is intended to be consumed as a food product or drink would be.
Q. Why did the government not deal with edibles last October when recreational weed became legal?
A. It can be quite complex and there is more of a public safety impact with edible products as they can look like normal food and drink and they decided they needed more time to really get a framework in place for edibles.
Q. What is the biggest concern?
A. They wanted to make sure that the product is not appealing and not in anyway marketed to children or any vulnerable groups. Since an edible product can just look like a normal food product, then it’s important to really take the time and get the regulations right and make sure that that’s in place so that everybody is kept safe while being allowed to enjoy these products in a safe way if they’re of legal age.
Q. How is the federal government dealing with the packaging of edibles?
A. They’ve said that the packaging will be quite restrictive and they cannot be appealing to children. There’s various rules like they have to have plain packaging, they have to be child resistant, which is consistent with packaging for currently available cannabis products. There’s also warning labels that have to be on the products. Again, this is consistent with current cannabis products, as well. Also, the edible cannabis products will have to have nutrition facts tables and list the allergens so that people who are consuming this product are aware of the other ingredients other than cannabis in the product and can make their choice, as well.
Q. How soon will edibles be on the market once the regulations are in place?
A. There is a possibility that there could be a delay in products being available for sale depending on if producers are able to get their products into stores or online as the case may be. But they will be legal by Oct. 17, according to the government.
Q. How will Ontario control the sale of edibles?
A. It’s still quite up in the air. The provincial governments have not released, Ontario or any other government, their frameworks for the distribution and sale and it is under their jurisdiction. The federal government just creates the framework for the production of cannabis.
Pot stores slated to open in Ontario as soon as April 1
Ontario has so far selected 25 applicants via a lottery system to run private cannabis stores in the province, including five in Toronto, with the ability to be open as soon as April 1 depending on where they’re at in the licensing process.
New Brunswick, on the other hand, has had 20 stores (and a website like Ontario’s) in operation since last Oct. 17 when recreational cannabis became legal in the country.
We talked to Lara Wood, the Fredericton-based general manager of New Brunswick’s Cannabis NB, about her experience before she speaks at a marijuana forum on Monday at the Toronto Congress Centre in Etobicoke.
Q. What is the retail model in New Brunswick?
A. Most provinces have different models. Our model is a public model. So we basically run all 20 stores. They all have the same footprint, they’re the same stores, the same products. And then we have an integrated website that’s integrated with our store’s back end, so it’s all one piece.
Q. You’re public, so what is the relationship with the government?
A. We have a service agreement with the government. So we run it on their behalf.
Q. How would you describe the stores?
A. We’ve been compared to like a Sephora or Apple store. It’s very clean, very modern lines. But we also have a lot sort of New Brunswick imagery. Our team is dressed kind of professionally but casually and its a very welcoming environment. We have a one-on-one guided experience so once you come in and show your ID, you actually go through the store with a guide and they explain everything to you and ask you what you’re looking for.
Q. It sounds like Ontario stores will mostly be different from each other as they are privately run?
A. I think you’re exactly right. So I think you’ll have some smaller independent stores eventually that are kind of more mom-and-pop type individual retailers who are running their stores and they’ll be very specific and unique to themselves. And then I think you’ll see some of the more experienced, bigger chains come in like Tokyo Smoke that have a consistent brand, feel and look and they’ll be quicker to arrive because they’ll have a more established approach from other provinces that’s pretty sophisticated. But overall I think there will be a real range.
Q. Why is Ontario so far behind in this storefront process compared to other provinces?
A. It was timing of the change of government. Originally Ontario was planning the same kind of network we were but the government changed and they changed direction on the model. So it did delay things a little.
Q. Has the retail business been working well in New Brunswick or has there been any hiccups?
A. I’m sure you’re aware there’s sort of a national supply issue across the country. So what I like to tell people is that everything that is sort of within our control has gone really well. The stores have been really well received. The customer experience is great. We actually designed and created our own training program so our team has at least 100 hours of training before they set foot in the store. And it’s been really positive but we have struggled with supply.
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