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Cannabis makes its legal debut in our food system

On Oct. 17, edible cannabis products, cannabis extracts, and cannabis topicals become legal in Canada.

There are different ways to consume cannabis including smoking, vaping, cooking in foods or drinking infused beverages.

Any food or drink item that includes compounds of THC and/or CBD (tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabinol), are considered an “edible.”

Both compounds affect the nervous system with THC contributing to the high and intoxicating effects, and CBD to the therapeutic effects.

Randi Casey, health promoter for the Northwestern Health Unit, said if consuming edibles, it's important to “start with a low dose and increase slowly because it can take up to two hours to feel any effects and up to four hours to feel the full effect after ingesting.”

Ingesting cannabis is different from inhaling since the onset of intoxication from edibles is much slower and consumers may be tempted to take a second dose.

Health Canada's set dose limit for THC is 10mg per unit and new consumers are encouraged to start with doses of 2.5 mg THC.

Chelsea Socholotuk, public health dietitian at the health unit, also suggested that from a nutrition point of view, you should think about how to best address the “munchies.”

Choosing healthy foods before the appetite is stimulated helps consumers avoid ultra-processed snacks.

Pre-planned activities and meal-times may help when hunger cues are altered by THC.

“When handling edibles, it is critical to ensure work surfaces like cutting boards or mixing bowls are cleaned of any cannabis residue to avoid cross-contamination,” said Socholotuk.

Health Canada's regulations have strict guidelines to make sure packaging is child-resistant and limits the appeal to children by being mistaken for a regular snack.

Dietitians of Canada is watching the industry closely and may advocate for the ban of edible cannabis products resembling common treats like gummies, chocolate bars or baking.

“Labels will have clear dosage instructions, nutrition facts tables, and lists of ingredients and allergens, so read carefully,” Casey said.

Once products are released, Canadians will be able to legally purchase beverages containing THC and CBD.

It is likely drink choices will be sugar sweetened and be high in calories with limitations on caffeine and a ban on alcohol.

To reduce risk when these products hit the shelves, there are additional points to consider:

  • Start with a low dose and increase slowly. Remember it can take up to two hours to feel any effects and up to four hours to feel the full effect after ingesting.

Effects may last up to 12 hours with residual effects for up to 24 hours;

  • Ensure all cannabis products containing any amount of THC or CBD are locked and stored away from children and animals;
  • Never mix cannabis with alcohol; and
  • Don't drive after using cannabis in any form.

For more information contact your local Northwestern Health Unit or visit www.nwhu.on.ca

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