B.C. officer sounds alarm over pot edibles after police bust online vendor
Marijuana treats aren't yet legal in Canada — but they're still easy to find
Const. Derek Gallamore was shocked when his department in Delta, B.C., busted a woman allegedly selling weed-laced brownies with 40 times the recommended single dose of THC.
The sugary treat looked identical to a regular grocery store confection but packed a whopping 400 milligrams of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. He immediately imagined what might happen if a toddler came across the dessert.
"Being a parent, I looked at it and went, 'Wait a second.' '' he said. "There were no warning labels for children.''
Though cannabis was legalized Oct. 17, edibles will not be legal until sometime within the next year. But that hasn't stopped entrepreneurs from cooking up pot-infused candies, cookies and other items and selling them online or in dispensaries.
Gallamore said the woman was arrested about 18 months ago and the Crown decided against laying charges because they weren't sure how marijuana legalization would affect the case.
Photos provided by Gallamore show other items seized were in professional-looking packaging. A rice cereal treat had the words "Keep away from children'' in small letters, but blue raspberry gummies were in a clear bag and looked like any other candy.
After the incident, he began researching the edible cannabis market and learned it's easy to purchase potent weed delicacies online. Most require the purchaser to register using government identification, but youth could still get the products, he said.
"It's pretty easy to have someone buy edibles for you,'' said Gallamore.
Poison calls doubled in Colorado
Some websites require buyers to agree to terms and conditions that state they need cannabis for a medical reason. Selling marijuana online to medical users is illegal unless the producer is licensed by Health Canada.
The federal government is set to launch consultations in the coming months on edible regulations, and it's considering requiring a standardized cannabis symbol on labels and banning product forms, ingredients and flavouring agents that appeal to kids.
Colorado had practically no restrictions on edibles when they hit shelves in 2014. That year, marijuana exposure calls about children and youth to a Denver poison control centre nearly doubled, and a college student jumped to his death after eating infused cookies.
The incidents pushed the state to introduce regulations, including requiring each product to be divided into servings of 10 or fewer milligrams of THC.
Regulations 'a bit of a challenge'
The effects of edibles are delayed compared with marijuana consumed by smoking, which puts users at greater risk of overconsumption, and the items are often sweet treats that appeal to children, said Dr. Mark Lysyshyn, a medical health officer with Vancouver Coastal Health.
Lysyshyn said Vancouver hospitals see a surge in emergency room visits by youth intoxicated by cannabis every year on April 20, during the 4/20 weed festival in the city. Most have consumed edibles, he said.
"When people consume too much cannabis, they don't overdose like people do on heroin,'' he said.
"But it is unpleasant to consume too much cannabis and people can feel nauseous, they can vomit, they can feel sweaty, they can feel anxious and paranoid and even have psychosis if they consume enough.''
It's going to be tricky for the government to ensure that edibles aren't kid-friendly but are still appetizing to adults, Lysyshyn added.
"I think it is a bit of a challenge to figure out: what are the regulations going to be so that [companies] can produce reasonable products that people would want to eat, but that aren't appealing to children?''
In early October, a young girl on Vancouver Island ate pot-infused gummy bears that she found in the back seat of a car. She was taken to hospital in medical distress but expected to fully recover, RCMP said.
Gallamore said his focus now is educating parents and youth about the dangers of edibles. He recently spoke to a parental advisory council and plans to deliver a presentation to a larger audience in early December.
"If you do consume these things, lock them up. Make them safe," Gallamore said.