Saskatoon

Marijuana-infused drinks maker disappointed with generic packaging rules

A company trying to break into the marijuana-infused drinks business isn't happy with Health Canada's new regulations on packaging.

Rules specify edibles packaging must be generic, not mention alcohol

This is a mockup of what a cannabis-infused drink can will look like under the current Health Canada rules. (Submitted by Hill Street Beverage Company)

A company trying to break into the marijuana-infused drinks business isn't happy with Health Canada's new regulations on packaging.

Last week, the federal government came out with its official rules and timetables on cannabis edibles. 

Among the new rules came strict edicts on packaging, including limitations on brand logos and descriptions of the product.

"If I was to come to your home and bring you a bottle of cannabis infused wine as a gift, do you want me to show up with that bottle of wine looking like toilet bowl cleanser or do you want it to look like a beautiful bottle of wine," said Terry Donnelly, CEO of the Vancouver-based Hill Street Beverage Company.

Hill Street plans to add cannabis to its de-alcoholized wine and beer products. However, the packaging on the label can't mention any type-of alcohol-related wording 

Donnelly said it's still unclear if his bottles could mention information like the type of grapes that are used in the de-alcoholized wine.

"Can I use the word cabernet sauvignon, which is the type of grape that's in the liquid to describe the liquid that's in the bottle?" he asked. "That poses a bit of a conundrum."

Competing with black market

The federal government said the packaging is designed to limit the appeal of cannabis products and reduce the risk of over-consumption.

Donnelly said he is concerned that the strict new rules will drive consumers toward the black market.

"If you've seen some of the packaging that exists in the black market, some of it is absolutely spectacular," he said. "As the better option, you should allow those legal products to actually establish compelling brands that allow consumers to trust those brands."

Hill Street Beverage recently bought Saskatchewan cannabis company OneLeaf for $16 million.

The company's products will only be available in cannabis stores.

Donnelly said he was pleased that the federal government has established official timelines about when edibles will hit the market. 

The company is planning to roll out its products in Spring 2020.

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