Where did all the marijuana brownies go?

With dispensary owners worried about additional legal penalties, the city has gone high and dry where marijuana edibles are concerned



If you visit one of Toronto’s storefront marijuana dispensaries these days, chances are you’ll see a sign reading “No edibles.”

Once common fare at unlicensed dispensaries – shops stocked a range of brownies, cookies, chocolate bars and even cannabis-infused sodas – the city has gone high and dry where edibles are concerned. 

With police raids ongoing since last May’s Project Claudia blitz, dispensary owners say they’re worried about the additional legal risks associated with selling edibles. 

The problem is subsection 5 (6) of the Controlled Substances Act, says Scott O’Neill, a lawyer with O’Neill Moon Quedado LLP, under the “determination of amount” provisions in the Act. They stipulate that “the amount of the substance means the entire amount of any mixture or substance… that contains a detectable amount of the substance.”

Toronto Police spokesperson Meaghan Gray tells NOW via email that “edibles are weighed and processed by total weight, not the amount of ‘active ingredient.’” 

So theoretically, a 1-pound chocolate bar with 99 per cent THC (if such a thing were possible) is less illegal than a 2-pound bar with 1 per cent THC.

O’Neill says the result is that “the police may properly charge one with possession of a larger amount of cannabis than one was actually in possession of.”

The law extends to cannabis-infused beverages as well, that many dispensaries had been selling in glass bottles. 

“It’s all considered cannabis,” says Jamie McConnell, manager of Cannabis Culture on Church.

While demand for edibles is “huge,” he says, they also seem to attract the most police attention. “It seems to be the [dispensaries] with edibles that get raided faster. It’s just not worth the risk.”

McConnell is one of few who are willing to go on record, but he’s not alone. It’s widely agreed that edibles are an easy way to get your dispensary raided by TPS. More than half a dozen were either contacted or visited for this story. None sold edible products and most cited concerns about the weight of those products, as well as city bylaws related to the sale of food.

At Pure ReLeaf, a policy of not selling edibles is in place “just to stay away from any of the dangers,” says one employee.

During the Project Claudia raids, 31 food-bylaw-related charges were laid by enforcement officers. Police Chief Mark Saunders said at the time that edibles were a particular focus of police he claimed they are unsafe and have “unknown and unregulated amount[s] of THC.”

This is not an unfair criticism. While many producers (such as FireBars cannabis-infused chocolates) make their edibles in professional-grade kitchens, there are no regulations or quality control mechanisms in place for many products sold in unlicensed dispensaries.

In August, the Globe tested the accuracy of labels on the amount of THC in a range of edibles and found discrepancies in a number of cases. But concerns that edibles could be vastly stronger than advertised weren’t corroborated: every product tested in the Globe’s investigation contained less THC than advertised, not more.

Questions remain not only about the sale of edibles, but also about how they’ll be regulated, along with oils and concentrates, once marijuana legalization comes into effect.

For now, though, it seems cake-and-cookie-craving cannabis connoisseurs will have to rely on making their own. 

news@nowtoronto.com | @nowtoronto

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