Ask the Pharmacist

Q. I heard that cannabis edibles are now legal. Can you tell me more about them?

A. Though dried cannabis became legal in Canada on October 17th of 2018, the regulations were only amended this year to allow for the sale of edible cannabis, cannabis extracts and cannabis topicals on October 17, 2019.

Edibles refers to a group of cannabis containing products that are intended to be consumed by mouth such as candies (gummies, cotton candy), baked goods (cookies, brownies), beverages and others. Extracts are a more concentrated form of cannabis that can be used for both internal and topical use. Topicals refers to products that are applied to the skin (creams, lotions), hair (shampoo), nails etc.

Though these regulations did come into effect last month, October 17th was the first day that federal cannabis licence holders can apply and give Health Canada their 60 day notice of their desire to sell these new products.

Then there are the authorized distributors and retailers that will need time to purchase the new products and make them available to the public. These strict regulations are intended to keep cannabis away from both the youth (remember marijuana products are considered toxic to brains that are still developing which is generally pegged at the age of 24 or less) and keep the profit dollars away from those involved in organized crime.

Thus, these edibles will not be available to consumers until mid-December at the earliest and only from the online store ( and select brick and mortar stores (to date 561 cannabis shops in Canada with only 24 of them in Ontario). Edibles that are available in non-licenced stores are not deemed legal in the eyes of Health Canada and they cannot guarantee the safety of such products.

Once edibles are available, they do offer a great alternative to inhaling cannabis in the form of joints or pipes as inhaling can be detrimental to our lungs. It is also important to note however that the effect from edibles can be more potent and also last for a much longer period of time. Another consideration that must be taken into account is that it does take time for the ingested cannabis to be absorbed from your stomach into your bloodstream and to eventually makes its way to your brain and that can range anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours. Thus, it is wise to start with a small amount and not consume more if you are not feeling an immediate effect. Rather, take one bite, wait 30 minutes and if the desired effect is not reached then proceed with another bite. The slogan “start low and go slow” is encouraged when dosing edible cannabis.

Otherwise, you run the risk of accidentally consuming more than you anticipated and experiencing unpleasant and unintended effects. Not only do the intended effects take longer for someone to experience with edibles as opposed to inhaled, the psychoactive effects (e.g. the “high”) also last significantly longer. This is important to note if you are planning on driving later or even the next day as the impairment may last up to 24 hours.

Health Canada set out some strict rules and regulations to be adhered to:

  • Cannabis-infused alcohol, tobacco, nicotine and caffeine is prohibited
  • Labeling must be plain so they are not attractive to youth
  • A package must have a clear cannabis symbol and associated health warnings
  • The amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) must be included on the label
  • Child-resistant packaging

The legal possession limits were set last year when cannabis became legal in Canada which are up to 30gm of dried or equivalent. Bear this in mind when choosing to have edibles instead of the dried. The amount of dried cannabis translates to 450gm of edible product (i.e. brownies), 2100gm of liquid product and 7.5 gm of extract or concentrate product.

For more information on this or any other topic, contact your pharmacist.