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Quebec catalog of cannabis-infused beets and cauliflower could help black market, says expertNews WAALI

Cannabis became legal in Canada four years ago, and although Quebec has been reluctant to introduce edibles, a new line of ready-to-eat, pot-fortified edibles are now available.

The SQDC’s edible cannabis catalog includes items such as dried beets, cauliflower, and figs — a notable departure from what consumers might expect from their local dispensary.

Unlike other provinces that sell candy-like edibles, the sale of cannabis chocolates and candy is taboo in Quebec, as they may appeal to children.

However, some worry that Quebec’s reluctance to embrace candy and edible candy products could backfire as weak competition for the black market.

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“If we want to kill the black market, we have to give consumers what they want,” said Pierre Leclerc, CEO of the Association québécoise de l’industrie du cannabis.

He says the SQDC’s collection just can’t compete with what’s on the street or in other provinces.

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“In my opinion, it will not really please anyone,” he said. “It’s a first step, but we still have a long way to go.”

A variety of cannabis edibles will be on display at the Ontario Cannabis Store in Toronto on Friday, January 3, 2020. This type of candy is not permitted to be sold in pharmacies in Quebec as it may be appealing to children . THE CANADIAN PRESS / Tijana Martin

When it comes to edibles, the lion’s share of sales still go through the black market, according to food policy expert Sylvain Charlebois, who estimates that around 80% of sales are made through illegal channels.

He says this is partly due to restrictions on the amount of THC that legal edibles can contain. In Canada, cannabis-derived foods and beverages cannot contain more than 10 mg of THC per package. Apparently, there is no such limit to what black market sellers do outside of the law.

“The black market mainly produced [more potent] Edibles for less,” Charlebois said.

In August, a New England Journal of Medicine study found that after the legalization of edibles in early 2020, rates of cannabis poisoning among children were twice as high in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario than in Quebec, which had not yet marketed edible products.

But Leclerc says that given the many black market products with much higher THC levels, it would make sense to have products comparable to SQDC.

“Give the information to the customer,” he said, “and make sure that products entering homes and streets are well controlled.”

– Posted with files by Luca Caruso-Moro of CTV