Year 1 of legal cannabis a dress rehearsal for what comes next

As legal recreational cannabis turns one year old today, industry experts say changes coming to how and what Canadians consume will be significant.

New cannabis vapes and infused beverages will appear as early as December

A man holds up cannabis he bought at Spiritleaf, the first cannabis store in Kingston, Ont., on Monday April 1, 2019. (Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)

As Canadians mark one year since the legalization of recreational cannabis, industry experts say more significant changes are coming down the pipe.

Wearing a hat emblazoned with a large marijuana leaf and the word 'dope' in downtown Ottawa Wednesday, Billy Ladouceur has never hidden his enthusiasm for weed.

Still, he said he's glad for the legalization which kicked in on Oct. 17, 2018.

"Instead of sitting behind a tree to smoke a joint, now we'll sit in front of a tree to smoke a joint," he said.

"Instead of sitting behind a tree to smoke a joint, now we'll sit in front of the tree," said Billy Ladouceur. (Stu Mills/CBC)

There is also criticism regulated, legal supply in Ottawa has sometimes been inconsistent in both quantity and quality.

"The quality, I find, it's not good," said Crystal Curnock.

"It's old, it's been packaged, it's dry, when you bust it up it's just powder."

"The quality I find, it's not good," said Crystal Curnock. (Stu Mills/CBC)

But experts who work in the marijuana industry say the preceding 365 days have really been just a dress rehearsal.

Beginning today, processors will start seeking Health Canada approval for a whole new range of pot-infused edible, topical and vape products that will change how Canadians consume cannabis.

Jay Rosenthal is the president and co-founder of a marijuana news and analysis group called Business of Cannabis. 

"The industry and all levels of government have had a challenging time understanding how to go from 0 to 100 really, really quickly," he said, summarizing year one.

He said the past year has shown that Canadians have a "fairly ravenous" appetite for cannabis and want more pot options than they've had.

Wrench thrown into vaping hype

Processors can now notify Health Canada of plans to bring a second wave of products to market.

Sixty days after that notification, and pending approval, the cannabis companies are permitted to ship new products to their distributors.

So, technically, a new wave of pot products will be on shelves by Dec. 17 — but realistically speaking, it's likely that licensing amendments, packaging, labelling and shipping details for a whole host of new products will need to be ironed out with the federal regulator.

Most of the industry excitement is around beverages infused with cannabis and vapes, says Trina Fraser, an Ottawa-based lawyer who has become an expert on the business side of pot.

"I think it has been successful," she said, summarizing the past year. 

"The public-at-large has kind of acknowledged that the sky didn't fall, and a year later society hasn't decayed. We're not living in a fog of cannabis smoke," she joked.

She called recent concerns over lung infections connected to vaping an "interesting wrench" thrown into industry predictions about the likely popularity of marijuana vaping.


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