Leading cannabis industry prognosticator ArcView predicts that the market for cannabis infused edibles in the U.S. and Canada could get as high as $4.1 billion by the year 2022. Honestly, that seems a bit conservative as this form of consumption is rapidly rising in popularity and only stands to continue that rise as more new users – many of whom are put off by the idea of fire, ash & odor – enter the market.
For example, although Canada legalized the adult use of cannabis nationwide on October 17th of last year, their government is just now opening up the regulated market to allow for the sale of edibles and concentrates. Once those segments of the market really take root up north, Canada alone could very well be raking in $4 billion a year in edibles sales.
Meanwhile, here in California, the concept of legal edibles manufacturing and sales is yet another example of how the state’s regulatory agencies like the Bureau of Cannabis Control continue to misunderstand the market they are tasked with governing.
HOW ABOUT 10? YEAH, 10 SOUNDS GOOD
The fuss began when the dust began to clear after the voters of California passed Proposition 64 to establish the new recreational adult use cannabis market statewide. The first point of contention was that under the new law, a package containing a cannabis infused edible product could not exceed 100mg of THC overall, and each individual serving could not exceed 10mg of THC.
Ignorant of tolerance levels, and of how many people use marijuana edibles as an alternative medicine, this lame language wedged into in the new law by the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) did nothing but ensure that those who rely on heavier doses of THC would have to eat more of the food that the THC is infused into in order to get their required amount of the healing cannabinoid, and lay out more money to dispensaries in the process.
It’s a giant waste every way you look at it.
10 is not a very large number, either, and while a 10mg edible may put a newbie to bed early, anyone truly interested in edibles as a form of consumption will blow past that limit pretty quickly as their tolerance builds.
10 is also not a very big number when it comes to lab testing and the variances they deal in. Initially, this led to a lot of products failing the third party testing that is mandated by the state, mostly due to improper labeling. In other words, the package said 10mg of THC per unit and 100mg total but the tests revealed that the THC content was not exactly as advertised.
A product that fails such testing can occasionally be remediated – picture melting down canna-chocolates and then reworking the batch to correct the potency discrepancy. This is not often an option, however, and a failed sample means a failed batch and a failed batch can mean thousands, or tens of thousands, of dollars going up in smoke as it will never be allowed to make it to the retail market.
Additionally, a company with that sort of false advertising – intentional or not – could have been leaving themselves open to lawsuits from distributors, retailers, or consumers who may claim to have felt misled.
To their credit, the brains at the BCC recognized the recurring failures and quietly disseminated an update that a 10% variance would be given for potency claims on cannabis packaging. So, if a product came back from the lab showing that each serving size tested at 11mg of THC, allegedly that would be allowed by the BCC. Same if the total package THC content was no higher than 110mg of THC.
The problem was, they did such a terrible job of getting this important message out that even their colleagues over at the CDPH never got the memo, and the two regulatory agencies were feeding contradictory info back to the confused licensees who were trying to get their feet set in the new legal marketplace. Also confused were the testing labs that were also getting a different answer depending on who they asked, and failed samples continued to cripple cultivators and those all the way up the rest of the supply chain.
It took until February of this year for the panicked screams coming from the licensed operators in the industry to convince the two regulatory agencies to reconcile their positions and pass that new joint position along to the list of labs located up and down the state.
This minor victory for edibles makers still does not answer the question as to why a state as progressive as California is limiting its adult residents to the edible equivalent of a watered down wine cooler.
The suits in Sacramento are scratching their heads these days wondering where all the precious tax dollars are at and why consumers continue to turn to the streets and unpermitted retailers for their cannabis products. This is why. Illogical rules like this that only make everyone’s life harder with no conceivable benefit for anyone.
The latest example of how little the BCC knows about cannabis edibles concerns not how potent those edibles are, per se, but rather how much of a certain ingredient each individual serving contains.
‘Looping’ is a term that came out of Colorado’s thriving legal cannabis market and it refers to a tactic used either by customers or dispensaries – or both in cahoots – to skirt the state’s laws about how much product a person can buy in one calendar day. It became a big deal in Colorado since for so many years its neighboring states were still waiting for their own version of cannabis reform. This created a flood of non-Colorado residents into the state’s cannabis shops, some of whom had plans to stock up on legal Colorado weed and take it back to trap illegally in their own home state.
ID checks at the door and new age technology are meant to prevent a customer from being able to buy more than the 1 ounce of flower and/or 8 grams of “concentrates”, but people get around that rule every day in California.
In a misguided attempt to curb cannabis Looping in Cali, the BCC recently replied to a request for clarification on legal edibles sales by proving once again that they have somewhere between little and zero clue what they are talking about, and it is absolutely hurting the industry.
The question asked by the interested resident was pretty simple. How can a retailer who sells THC-infused edibles avoid accusations or criminal charges of Looping? Since pot brownies and medicated gummy bears are clearly not flowers, how much can one person buy each day?
The answer back from the BCC was baffling, and we are still trying to figure out if they are just trolling everyone at this point.
Basically, they are treating edibles as “concentrates” and imposing the 8 gram per day purchase limit. But, even a decent sized chocolate brownie will weigh way more than 8 grams. So overall weight is not the deciding factor but, instead, the BCC is claiming that manufacturers and retailers must know exactly how much the cannabis concentrates used to make the edible would have weighed.
It is such an inaccurate way to police that method of consumption and could lead to liability lawsuits for licensed dispensaries unless they know the (often secret and proprietary) ways that every single edible brand that they carry makes their goods.
The Bureau of Cannabis Control knows that it would be a costly fool’s errand to try to compile data on this themselves so they are laying the liability on the doorsteps of dispensaries, forcing them to trace the origins of every measly 10mg serving before selling it to an adult customer.
Some of you may be thinking that the math is easy…
8 grams = 8,000mg so everyone can buy edibles laden with that much THC every darn day if they’d like to, but it’s not that simple. First of all, no “cannabis concentrates” are composed 100% of THC.
Some isolates and distillates come close, but not 100%. Though both of those are gaining popularity as the “active ingredient” in many edibles recipes, lots of edibles makers still use ice water/bubble hash to power their products, and a handful of holdouts surely still use shake and trim to create canna-butter for their confections. All of these forms of “concentrate” come with different levels of potency. The same form of concentrate will likely have potency variations from batch to batch! Does the BCC really expect budtenders at the local dispensary to stay on top of all that while ringing up a sale?
As you may know, cannabis edible packaging deemed by these same regulatory agencies does not label products by the weight of the concentrate found within, they label them by potency.
Will dispensaries begin to demand that edibles manufacturers update their labeling to include this otherwise useless bit of information?
Depending on how strictly the state chooses to enforce this, it could become a major liability for any retailer or dispensary employee who sells cannabis infused edibles on a daily basis. The “Nichole” being addressed in these emails is frontline cannabis activist Nichole West, and anyone who doesn’t know her story really ought to get familiar – her demand for clarification comes from past personal experience.
What the BCC is demanding is ludicrous and reeks either of market manipulation or (more likely) just more lack of understanding of the industry they are supposed to be overseeing.