British Columbia

Group says cannabis-infused beverage restrictions too severe

An alliance of alcohol and cannabis companies wants the government to change proposed rules on edibles, particularly concerning cannabis-infused beverages. They say by making branding more difficult for licensed producers, the government is making it more difficult to compete with the black market. 

Alliance of 10 companies says regulations on packaging, dosage and manufacturing too restrictive

The federal government says edible cannabis will be legal by October. But the Cannabis Beverage Producers Alliance says the regulations around cannabis-infused drinks are too restrictive. (Nick Adams/Reuters)

An alliance of alcohol and cannabis companies wants the government to change proposed rules on edibles, particularly concerning cannabis-infused beverages.

They say by making branding more difficult for licensed producers, the government is making it more difficult to compete with the black market. 

The federal government says edible cannabis will be legal by October. But the Cannabis Beverage Producers Alliance, which has 10 member companies, says the regulations around cannabis-infused drinks are too restrictive.The regulations include restrictions on packaging, dosage and manufacturing conditions. 

Terrence Donnelly, chairman and CEO of the Hill Street Beverage Company, co-founded the alliance. He says Hill Street makes wine, beer and cocktails that are infused with cannabis, but the company is not permitted to use the common drink names to describe the product.

"We make a Cabernet Sauvignon that will be infused with cannabis. But if I can't use [the name] Cabernet Sauvignon, how can I describe the product?" Donnelly told Gloria Macarenko, host of On the Coast.

"I'm going to have to call it a fermented, aged liquid extracted from red-skinned grapes from Niagara." 

Donnelly says this is problematic because it fails to differentiate a licensed product from a black market product. One of the federal government's mandates with legalizing cannabis is to displace the black market

"We need to be able to create brands that will convince consumers not to purchase from the black [market]. The more a product looks like a black market product, the harder it is to differentiate from the black market," said Donnelly.

"We make a Cabernet Sauvignon that will be infused with cannabis. But if I can't use [the name] Cabernet Sauvignon, how can I describe the product?" says Terrence Donnelly, CEO of the Hill Street Beverage Company. (CCO/Pixabay)

Facility restrictions 

Government regulations restrict manufacturers from using the facilities in which they make wine and beer to make cannabis-infused beverages. Companies that wish to produce both must build entirely new facilities, production lines, fermenting tanks and storage tanks, according to Donnelly.  

The government proposed these regulations due to the concern of cross contamination, he said. 

"It's a legitimate concern. However, the Canadian Safe Food Act renders that literally impossible," said Donnelly.  

The act requires food and drink producers to have certain practices that eliminate the risk of contamination.

Because of their adherence to the act's guidelines, Hill Street Beverage Company's production facility can create products that contain allergens. Donnelly says the possibility of errant cannabis is far less risky than allergens. 

With files by On the Coast. 

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