Clearing the Air on Cannabis: Edibles
For our October column we wanted to provide information on cannabis edibles, which will become legal this month. It’s important that educators and school staff are aware of current regulations, to be able to answer any questions students may have on edibles and integrate this information into student learning about cannabis as part of healthy living. Read on to find out the new upcoming edibles regulations and what educators need to know.
What are edibles?
There are multiple ways to consume cannabis. The most common ways are to inhale or smoke it, or to ingest it through foods or drinks (sometimes called edibles)1. It can also be absorbed through the mouth lining through oils or sprays, or absorbed through the skin with topical products1.
As edibles have the potential to be attractive to youth, this Q&A column is focusing on edibles specifically. Edibles can come in many forms like drinks or foods such as chocolate bars, brownies or gummy bears1. It’s currently unknown what products will be sold in Ontario once edibles become available. The cannabis from edibles is absorbed differently than from smoking. It’s absorbed through the digestive track and the liver, making the absorption of cannabis slower and its effects longer lasting2. It also results in a stronger form of the drug, causing a powerful full body high. For inhaled cannabis, the effects start right away and can last up to 6 hours or longer3. The effects of edibles are delayed and can begin between 30 minutes and two hours after ingestion, and can last 12 hours with some residual effects lasting up to 24 hours3.
What are the new rules?
Though cannabis was legalized for adults 19 and over in October 2018, cannabis edibles, topical products and concentrates were still illegal. Later this month these forms will be legalized for adults4. It’s estimated that edibles will become available in stores in December 2019. Currently, edibles can be legally made at home but not sold in a store; however, the new regulations will only apply to edibles sold through government stores. There are limitations on the total amount of THC per package which is limited to 10mg per package and on including ingredients that could increase their appeal (no nicotine or alcohol will be permitted, and limits on the amount of caffeine)4. To make the new products less appealing to youth they will be sold in plain packaging. It’s important to remember that the new regulations apply to edibles sold through legal channels, and that other products may be available illicitly.
What are the specific risks associated with edibles?
Though edibles are potentially safer than inhalation, because they don’t harm the respiratory system, they are not risk free1.
- Because edibles can be in the form of food or candy, they may be attractive to children and youth. Unless stored safely, children and youth may unintentionally consume them. The new regulations require edibles to be sold in child-resistant packaging to limit the risk4.
- Because the effect of edibles is delayed, a person may consume larger amounts in a short amount of time leading to higher levels of intoxication than intended1.
- While consuming large amounts of cannabis is not life threatening5, it can have negative consequences, such as increased risk of paranoia, delusion, or psychotic episodes3.
Are youth currently consuming edibles?
The 2017 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS) asked high school students who consumed cannabis how they consumed it6:
- 11% of high school students consumed cannabis edibles
- An additional 2% consumed cannabis drinks.
- 61% of students inhaled cannabis through a bong, joint, blunt, or vape.
So while most youth who use cannabis are not taking it in the form of edibles, this may change once edibles become more widely available.
What do teachers need to know?
Teachers need to be aware of the effects and risks of cannabis when ingested through edibles to provide students with the most up to date information about edibles so that students can make safe and informed decisions. Visit Cannabis Education Resources for resources that support educators in talking to youth about cannabis as well as other substances.
Visit Ophea’s Clearing the Air About Cannabis Q&A Form to submit your questions for next month’s Q&A column. For access to a database of resources visit Cannabis Education Resources and follow #WeedEducationWednesday where a different cannabis resource is featured each week.
Available now to support cannabis education in schools are Ophea’s new Cannabis Education: Activate the Discussion guides for both elementary and secondary educators. The guides look to help spark conversation within the school community about non-medical and medical cannabis, address questions and concerns, and foster a whole-school approach when dealing with situations involving cannabis.
You can also sign up for Ophea’s e-newsletter eConnection to read the next month’s Q&A column and to stay up-to-date with the latest issues, events, and resources!
Ophea and the Provincial System Support Program at CAMH
- Canadian Public Health Association. (2018). Cannabasics. Retrieved from: https://www.cpha.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/resources/cannabis/cannabasics-2018-fact-sheets-e.pdf
- Canadian Centre for Cannabis Use and Addiction. (2019). 7 Things You Need to Know about Edible Cannabis. Retrieved from: https://www.ccsa.ca/sites/default/files/2019-06/CCSA-7-Things-About-Edible-Cannabis-2019-en.pdf
- Government of Canada. (2019). Health effects of cannabis. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/hc-sc/documents/services/campaigns/27-16-1808-Factsheet-Health-Effects-eng-web.pdf
- Government of Canada. (2019). Backgrounder: Final regulations on new cannabis products. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/news/2019/06/backgrounder-final-regulations-on-new-cannabis-products.html
- Government of Canada. (2019). Addiction to cannabis. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-medication/cannabis/health-effects/addiction.html
- Boak, A., Hamilton, H., Adlaf, E. M., & Mann, R. R. (2017). Drug use among Ontario students, 1977-2017: Detailed findings from the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS) (CAMH Research Document Series No. 46). Retrieved from: https://www.camh.ca/-/media/files/pdf---osduhs/drug-use-among-ontario-students-1977-2017---detailed-findings-from-the-osduhs.pdf