Pot brownies and more are coming — not until 2020 with lots of question marks: expert
Don't expect the new products, one expert says, until after the federal election
Your friendly, neighbourhood, Ontario-run cannabis store expects to soon be offering a new and expanded menu.
Pot brownies. Cannabis-infused tea and sparkling water. Grape juice. Cookies. Malt beverages. Lots more. Even wine and beer. The next wave of provincially approved pot products are on their way, but maybe not soon. There's still lots to decide. Who gets to supply the products? How will they be made? How will the federal election affect the plans?
Lisa Campbell, CEO of Lifford Cannabis Solutions spoke with the CBC's Conrad Collaco about the new products and the questions that still need to be answered. Her company has been helping licensed producers navigate these new products and has been applying to the provincial control boards.
You can read an abridged and edited version of the interview or listen to the full audio interview by hitting the play button above.
Lisa Campbell, CEO for Lifford Cannabis Solutions
What will the new products look like?
They'll look a lot like existing products for dried cannabis and oil. They'll have the exact same packaging. The big yellow warning. The red THC stop sign. The products are going to be so diverse.
For each product category that OCS is accepting submissions for there are hundreds and hundreds products that are being submitted. Not all products will make it. It will be interesting to see what final products come to market.
Consumers are hungry to try things like cannabis chocolate. - Lisa Campbell, Lifford Cannabis Solutions
Where will people be able to buy these products?
They'll be able to buy online through the OCS.ca. You'll also be able to purchase in the private retail locations. There are 25 now opening across Ontario. The majority have opened their doors including Hamilton.
Even before all these new products, Ontario Cannabis Store suppliers haven't been able to keep up with demand. What would adding these products mean?
OCS will definitely be very picky in terms of who they choose for these different categories. They're going to be rewarding producers who actually stuck to their supply agreement and delivered. Whereas producers who have been shorting the OCS on every order — how can they trust them to actually have these products available.
We're also seeing a lot of licensed producers also stockpiling product to prepare for the second wave of cannabis.
I would say twice as much cannabis that is on the shelves is in storage right now waiting to be processed into all of these product categories. I do think that licensed producers are ready. The only problem is that we haven't gotten the final regulations from Health Canada.
We have the proposed regulations which are good guidelines but the final regulations will be dropping in the Gazette potentially two days before the product call is due. For licensed producers that are looking for more guidance it still remains to be seen whether it's smarter to enter into the ring in the first round or wait until the next product call.
Do you think the availability of cannabis in new products like brownies or tea will make it more likely that the people who are still using their local illegal dealers shift over to using legal cannabis?
I think so, especially in Hamilton where you have a very mature existing market.
At one point there were over 100 illicit dispensaries in Hamilton. Consumers in the area are used to consuming all the products from extracts like shatter and wax and rosin to edibles like brownies, cookies and even powdered mixes where you can make your own mixes at home. That's all going to be available on the legal market.
The only difference will be marketing. Marketing is still very restrictive for licensed producers. They're only allowed to use one colour. Their logo has to be very small on the package. It's hard for licensed producers to differentiate their products.
The quality of the products will speak for themselves. Consumers are hungry to try things like cannabis chocolate. Unfortunately the dosage will be much lower than what consumers in Hamilton are used to in the existing edibles market.
What role could the federal election play in when the products become available?
The federal election is a huge roadblock.
There are rumours the Conservatives are all ready to use edibles, extracts, all the new products as a war room tactic to target the Liberal party to say if there are any complications, any hospitalizations there will be absolute political hysteria.
A lot of folks are saying edibles will come out after the October election. Licensed producers have to submit their formulations to Health Canada with a minimum 60-day review period per product. That means there will be a huge backlog processing all those applications. We probably won't see product until 2020.
This is the second phase for legal cannabis in Ontario. What did you learn after phase one?
Sustainability as well as price point.
To try legal cannabis you need to have the same price as the black market. In this new OCS product call there is a call for cheaper forms of cannabis that might be billed where you could buy more at the five to six-dollar price point.
We're also seeing a call for premium cannabis as well. A lot of consumers aren't happy with the cannabis on the shelves.
There are complaints that it's dry and packaged many months before. I think we're going to see a lot of fresh product on the shelves that will be affordable but we'll also have that premium category if someone wants to buy up to $100 on a product they'll be able to purchase something that is very high quality that competes with existing markets.
I'm the most excited for outdoor cannabis coming to market. That means a huge increase in supply.
One of the suppliers we work with is planning 20,000 clones in a certified organic field near Strathroy, Ont. It's just going to explode in terms of quality and sustainability.