News on cannabis stocks and on developments in the industry haven’t let up in today’s volatile markets. Here are the stories that we believe will mean most to you as a Canadian investor.
1. The federal government’s proposed regulations for the sale of cannabis edibles and extracts include capping the amount of THC they contain.
In a statement last week, Health Canada said it will make the sale of edibles legal no later than Oct. 17, 2019—a full year after legalization of cannabis. At the same time, it outlined permissible concentrations for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana. For any package of edibles, the government plans to cap THC at 10 milligrams. Cannabis extracts will be limited to 10 mg of THC per unit and no more than 1,000 mg, or one gram, per package. Cannabis topicals, such as lotions, will be limited to 1 gram of THC per package.
The proposed regulations also outline what, in fact, are edibles; namely, products containing cannabis that are intended to be consumed in the same manner as food or drink. Extracts, on the other hand, are “products that are produced using extraction processing methods or by synthesizing phytocannabinoids.” They include vape pens, and ointments and lotions applied to the skin, hair or nails. Cannabis oils are already legal and sold across Canada, but are also included within these specific product classes.
2. Vancouver’s first licensed marijuana store is now planning its grand opening for Saturday as several other “approved retailers” continue to wait for their own go-ahead.
Dozens of other cannabis businesses have earned development permits from the city. Still, Evergreen Cannabis is the only shop that’s been given the green light to open its doors.
The retailer has already received its provincial licence, but is waiting for Vancouver city hall to issue its municipal licence. When that happens, the store will be the city’s first cannabis retailer since legalization of pot on Oct. 17, 2018.
Still, Vancouver’s licencing process lags behind many other major municipalities across the country. No notable exception is Ontario’s. For that largest of the provincial markets, the governmetn won’t open the door to private retailers until April 1.
3. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says the province’s cannabis retail network is largely ahead of those for other provinces.
As of Jan. 1, 2019, there are 65 licensed retailers in Alberta, according to the province’s gaming and liquor control board (AGLC). It also licenses brick-and-mortar stores.
Quebec, on the other hand, has just 12 government-operated shops, and B.C. is still waiting on the opening of its second retailer. Ontario’s online cannabis store continues to enjoy a legal monopoly on the sale of cannabis in that province until privately run retailers come on line in April.
“We’re pleased that the AGLC has been so far ahead on this,” Notley said. “We have more product and more access to the product in Alberta than in other parts of the country.”
4. Mental health experts are warning of a possible spike in cannabis-induced psychosis.
The latest figures provided by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) already pointed to a steady rise in cases prior to legalization on Oct. 17, 2018.
While 373 people were treated for cannabis-induced psychosis and discharged from hospitals in the 2012/13 fiscal year, that number increased to 723 cases for 2016/17. Both numbers exclude Quebec and Ontario.
Researchers expect that upward trend to continue as more and more young teens illegally experiment with otherwise-legal cannabis.
The Schizophrenia Society of Canada (SSC) is now looking at U.S. states where marijuana is legal to study what happened there following the end of cannabis prohibition, Chris Summerville, SSC’s chief executive, told CTV.
“For a number of years, we have been seeing more young people coming to use the services of the schizophrenia societies across Canada for cannabis-induced psychosis and schizophrenia,” he said. “We expect those numbers to increase significantly with legalization.”
5. Consumer-choice advocates warn that the significant number of Ontario municipalities that have opted to prohit the sale of cannabis in their communities will benefit the black market.
Recreational cannabis can currently only be bought online in Ontario until the end of March. Municipalities have until January 22 to decide if they want to host private cannabis stores or prohibit them.
Several have already decided to move ahead with bans. That, coupled with the limited number of retailers permitted to operate in Ontario later this year, could create boom conditions for illegal sellers, says one expert.
“Unfortunately, it’s turned out to be just a comedy of errors,” said Anindya Sen, an economics professor at the University of Waterloo, who specializes in the cannabis industry. “When you take (those things) together, it’s possible that despite being legalized, Ontario might become one of the biggest black markets in the world.”
Although Internet purchases remains an option, Sen said delivery challenges and limited selection at the Ontario online cannabis store undermine efforts to lure consumers away from the black market.
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