Edible cannabis products – anything from gummies to cannabis-infused honey – are not yet legal in Newfoundland and Labrador, but illicit products are always popping up. Some are being picked up by the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation (NLC) in cannabis-related enforcement efforts, as well as in joint law enforcement efforts.
Regulations for edibles come into effect this fall, with the legal products expected to begin rolling out about mid-December. But even when those products are available, the cannabis gummies and “medicated krisps” seized and displayed in the drugs-on-the-table press conference in St. John’s on Thursday will still be illegal.
The only legal edibles will be products certified by federal and provincial authorities, and sold through Cannabis NL or a licensed retailer.
Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation vice-president of regulatory services Sean Ryan drove home the fact legal cannabis edibles will, first of all, have a different look than much of what has been seized by NLC officers over the last few months.
“In terms of the style of packaging, you’ll see some of the packaging (internationally and in the illicit market) is very, very ornate, very colourful, these types of things, whereas in Canada it would be very benign, strict regulations and packaging pursuant to federal regulations,” he said.
NLC enforcement officers will continue to target illicit edible products, the same as with illegal marijuana.
Less than a year since the NLC was given an enforcement role with cannabis and legal marijuana came on the scene, Ryan said enforcement has reached full steam, with four search warrants since June and about $1.2-million in products seized between June and present.
Ryan mentioned four search warrants but “a lot more than just four” cannabis-related investigations also involving the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and Canada Post.
“We’re establishing memorandums of understanding and information sharing agreements, but in the interim we’re working very diligently together to ensure that we can disrupt this (black market) business as much as we possibly can,” he said.
Governments are profiting on the legal cannabis business through taxation, but regulators say the difference between legal and illegal product is about more than taxes, packaging or final price. Illegal products have no testing procedures, no quality assurance for safe use. And the money organized crime or illegal sellers don’t take in taxes and quality control can often be diverted to fund criminal enforcement efforts, guns and protection, or go to buy-ins on other drugs.
Finance Minister Tom Osborne, who is also the minister responsible for the NLC, applauded the Crown corporation for the work completed in building up its enforcement arm.
“I think the message today is that the partnership between the NLC and other law enforcement agencies and Canada Post is working,” he said, giving a nod to the dried cannabis, edibles, oil, seeds, cash and electronics collected in an NLC boardroom.
“For a brand new market that you know for generations has been operated illegally and in large part by organized crime, I think they’ve done a fantastic job in terms of the roll out. Again, we anticipated speed bumps but we had less speed bumps than we anticipated,” he said.
As for legal sales of cannabis in Newfoundland and Labrador? Total sales are $29 million, as of the end of July.