Despite legalization, edible products not available yet

The legalization of recreational cannabis last month opens up opportunities in the food industry. The question now is how can Island entrepreneurs tap into potential business?

On legalization day, Food Island Partnership (FIP) held a networking and information session, “Product Development Opportunities in Cannabis”. Well attended by interested farmers, food business owners, scientists, and others, the session included a brief overview of cannabis, what is currently legal to purchase in Canada and projected market trends.

Right now, it is legal to purchase dried and fresh cannabis, cannabis oil, seeds, and plants. Ready-made edibles like cookies, infused foods, or candies can not be legally sold in Canada at this time. The legislation indicates that within the first anniversary of legalization (October 2019), edible products will be legalized. Kent Thompson, FIP’s director of finance and food tourism said that “PEI has the opportunity to be on the forefront of development” when it comes to the edibles market.

Much of the government’s decision to delay the edibles legalization is because of the lack of solid research on edibles, as well as a cautious approach in introducing too many cannabis options all at once. The product development side of edibles brings a host of challenges, the most significant being dosage and consistency in a product. Similar to current nutrition breakdown labels, any edible product that hits the market will need to have accurate information about potency, cannabinoid concentration, and other data.

Cannabis illegality prevented a lot of research but now the expectation is that Canadian companies will jump on board, begin scientific studies, and develop products. Thompson said there is a huge opportunity for edible product development and that cannabis edibles are really no different than any other value-added product.

ReTreat Edibles offers baking mixes// Photo courtesy of ReTreat presentation

PEI is well-positioned to help producers interested in the edible market. The Island’s bio-food infrastructure with Canada’s Smartest Kitchen, Food Island Partnership, and Bio Food Tech, along with cannabis producers like FIGR East, bodes well for companies interested in developing and producing cannabis edible products. Other companies, such as Delivra, a PEI/Ontario company that develops non-pharmaceutical health products, have the capacity to help entrepreneurs test their products. Delivra already has the costly infrastructure in place to conduct such research.

One food entrepreneur at the information session who already has experience in the edibles market is chef John MacNeil, owner and developer of ReTreat Edibles. MacNeil has created hand-crafted baking mixes to be used with cannabis oil. Based out of Calgary, the native Cape Bretoner and graduate of The Culinary Institute of Canada, worked with medical marijuana producers to create his mixes. He offers accurate dosage information, from medical cannabis producers, for his products. His vegan friendly, gluten- and dairy-free baking mixes can be used by consumers (who add their own cannabis oil) to bake edibles at home.

MacNeil is convinced that “the sky’s the limit” for edibles development. He predicts that although edibles seem to be geared towards the sweet side right now, a swing towards savoury products will follow. “There are so many different ways that this [cannabis] can be used in food.”

About Cheryl Young

A “Jill of all trades” describes Cheryl to a T. From operating her own handyperson company, to selling luxury cars, to working as a film and TV crew member, her resume is diverse. But her dream as a kid was to be a journalist and she started down that path many years ago at CBC Charlottetown. Returning to her journalism roots, she’s excited to be editing Salty’s content and occasionally writing herself.

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