Dalhousie’s Sylvain Charlebois urges policy to minimize risk, survey indicates interest in pot-infused dishes
A professor of food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University in Halifax predicts marijuana will be a growing trend in the food industry, and says policy needs to be implemented to minimize risk.
Bill C-45 does not include the legalization of edible cannabis products, and Ottawa has said it would deal with those products at a later date.
Sylvain Charlebois conducted research alongside Simon Somogyi, a Dalhousie University faculty of agriculture associate professor, surveying Canadians’ willingness to consider marijuana as a food ingredient and incorporate it into their diet.
“Some people may actually prefer to do that, but they need to understand the risks in doing so,” said Charlebois.
Just over 45 per cent of respondents in the Canada-wide survey said they would be willing to buy food containing marijuana, if recreational use is legalized.
“This could be the next gluten-free phenomenon,” said Charlebois, citing the multimillion-dollar industry. “A lot of companies are seeing marijuana as the next trend.”
Edible marijuana products don’t represent the same threat to your lungs but can lead to more severe impairment, Dr. Benedikt Fischer, a senior scientist with Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, has told CBC News.
Edible cannabis products often contain THC, the psychoactive substance that gives consumers that “high” feeling, and can come in many forms, including baked goods, candy and cannabis-infused butter.
For adults, overeating marijuana edibles rarely leads to serious consequences beyond intense anxiety or a strong urge to go to sleep, according to Dr. Patricia Daly, chief medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health. But for children, Daly has told CBC News, the consequences can be far more severe, and can include depressed respiration and possibly even coma.
She said seven per cent of reported cannabis poisonings in American children end up in critical-care units.
Ian Culbert, executive director of the Canadian Public Health Association, said there must be strict regulation and a limited range of products available initially. Edibles must have clear identification of dosage and servings, and come with education about how it takes longer to take effect than smoking.
Understanding the effects
Charlebois said Bill C-45 focuses on the exchange of marijuana, outlining regulations for who can buy, where and who will sell it. He said those guidelines are important, but aren’t helpful beyond the point of sale.
“People will go home and cook, maybe process it and make all sorts of food products,” he said.
“Canadians understand the effects of alcohol, but maybe not marijuana in their spaghetti sauce or extra spices in their pizza. The effects may actually be felt one, two, three, even four hours after eating it,” said Charlebois, also dean of the faculty of management.
‘Policy has a role to play’
The poll by Charlebois and Somogyi found that about 68 per cent of people across the country favour the impending legalization of pot, with the bulk of that support in B.C. and Ontario.
The survey was conducted on a sample size of 1,087 people over age 18, with a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Charlebois believes “rigorous policy has a role to play” in food-related use of marijuana.
Without proper regulation, Charlebois said buyers could see marijuana-infused products without the proper dosage or packaging.
With files from The Canadian Press