Cannabis edibles – which became legal in Canada last week – should be consumed with care, the NWT's chief public health officer warned.
A year on from the initial legalization of cannabis, new regulations allow licensed producers to submit edibles to Health Canada for approval.
The term "edibles" covers a range of drinks, candies, and baked goods infused with cannabis. Federal regulations limit the content to 10 mg of THC – the chemical responsible for most of the psychoactive effects – per edible serving. The products can't be marketed in a way that could appeal to children, the regulations state.
Production and sale of cannabis extracts and topical lotions is also now legal.
Health Canada's message as edibles are introduced is "start low and go slow," on the grounds that the lag time between eating an edible and feeling an effect can be longer than for other forms of cannabis.
"With edibles, it takes time," said Kami Kandola, the NWT's chief public health officer, on Thursday.
"Typically, when you are vaping or smoking cannabis, it goes through your airways and can hit the bloodstream pretty quickly," Kandola said. "With edibles, it goes to your stomach, your liver, your bloodstream, and it'll hit your brain. Because you don't immediately feel the effects, you may eat more. It can take several hours to peak, and the effects can last up to 24 hours.
"If you're used to feeling an impact from cannabis within minutes, then you consume edibles and don't feel anything, you may consume more and more. In some cases, that can lead to poisoning."
Kandola said anyone new to edibles should start at 2.5 mg and see what the effects are, then build up to 10 mg. She repeated the Health Canada recommendation that young people under the age of 25 avoid substances that can impair brain development, though anyone over the age of 19 may legally purchase and use cannabis.
Edible products are not expected to reach the shelves of licensed stores before December, either in the NWT or elsewhere in Canada. That's because Health Canada needs to approve each product first, then procurement for those products needs to be set up – which is set to take 60 to 90 days.