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Health

Health Canada releases draft regulations for edible cannabis products

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OTTAWA — Canadians won’t be allowed to buy cannabis-infused booze when other marijuana-laced “edibles” become legal next fall, under new rules the federal government proposed Thursday.

The regulations say cannabis-infused alcoholic products would not be permitted in Canada, except where the alcohol content is minimal, such as in tinctures meant to be consumed a few drops at a time, and they would have to be labelled as non-alcoholic.

Packaging or labelling beer or wine products together with cannabis would also be prohibited, to reduce the risk of people mixing the two substances, which has been deemed a health risk. And companies that produce alcoholic drinks wouldn’t be allowed to put their names or brands on cannabis drinks.

The draft regulations, released Thursday by Health Canada, propose three new classes of cannabis: edibles, extracts and topicals — and includes a hard cap on the amount of THC these products can contain.

No package of edibles would be permitted more than 10 milligrams of THC, while extracts and topicals could not exceed 1,000 milligrams of THC.

Restrictions would also be placed on ingredients that would make edible cannabis more appealing to children, such as sweeteners or colourants, or adding ingredients that could encourage consumption, such as nicotine. Cannabis edibles that appear or are packaged like candy or other familiar children’s foods would also be banned.

Similar restrictions are proposed for topical products and cannabis extracts, and manufacturers would be prohibited from making any claims about health benefits or nutrition on their labels.

All packaging would have to be plain and child-resistant and display the standard cannabis symbol with a health warning.

Legal cannabis companies welcomed the proposed regulations Thursday, saying they appear at first glance to take into account the need to balance public safety with the effort to divert cannabis consumers from the illegal market.

“The bottom line here is that you want to create enough space for legal products while ensuring that kids are protected,” said Omar Khan, a vice-president with Hill and Knowlton Strategies and a former Ontario Liberal staffer, who advises several clients in the cannabis industry.

Licensed producers are very interested in the market for edibles and cannabis-infused products, Khan noted, pointing to a recent report by Deloitte that estimated most new recreational pot users would likely gravitate toward edible products.

Cannabis beer, wine or spirits won’t be permitted under the regulations but cannabis beverages that do not contain alcohol would be allowed. Bruce Linton, the CEO of Canopy Growth Corp., was especially happy to see that.

The company, which is headquartered in Smiths Falls, Ont., has spent the last four years developing a non-alcoholic cannabis drink and has even built a bottling plant in the hope the government would allow cannabis-infused beverages once edibles are legalized.

He said the categories and products that government is proposing to allow in its next phase of legalization are sure to make a big dent in the illegal market.

“When I look across these categories it strikes me that, if you’re currently in the illegal production business, we now have matchy-match on every category you make money on, which means you’re going to quit making money soon.”

He applauded the government for coming out with the regulations now, allowing lots of time for study and feedback before they come into effect.

Ottawa is gathering public input on these proposed rules until Feb. 20. 

Edibles are to be allowed for sale in Canada no later than Oct. 17, 2019.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press


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Health

Food fight: Liberals, Tories trade shots as pre-campaign battles intensify

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liberals, tories, trade shots

OTTAWA — Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor is trying to distinguish the Liberals as a party of scientific, evidence-based policy while she says Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is spreading misinformation about Canada’s new food guide.

Petitpas Taylor held a news conference in Ottawa today, along with her colleague Marco Mendicino, to say the Conservatives are willing to throw away research and evidence underpinning the creation of the new dietary guide.

In January, Health Canada released an overhauled document that did away with traditional food groups and portion sizes and focused instead on broader guidelines, including eating more plant-based protein and drinking more water.

Last Wednesday, Scheer told an annual gathering of the Dairy Farmers of Canada in Saskatoon that the process to craft the new version of the document was “flawed” and that the guide needs to reflect what “science tells us.”

He also pledged that a Conservative government would “absolutely” review the guide, adding there was a “complete lack of consultation” on the new version.

Petitpas Taylor’s news conference followed an appearance by the Conservatives’ Pierre Poilievre, attacking the Liberals for bringing back Gerald Butts as a campaign adviser following his resignation in the SNC-Lavalin affair last winter.

The Canadian Press

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Environment

Lyme-spreading ticks so common thanks to mild winters, some places stop testing

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Lyme infected ticks becoming common in Canada

OTTAWA — Lyme disease has settled so deeply into parts of Canada many public health units now just assume if you get bitten by a tick, you should be treated for Lyme disease.

In Ottawa, where more than two-thirds of the ticks tested in some neighbourhoods carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, the public-health unit no longer bothers to test ticks at all.

Dr. Vera Etches, the unit’s top doctor, said that in 2016 and 2017 more than one-fifth of black-legged ticks tested in Ottawa came back positive for Lyme.

“That’s a threshold,” she said. “Once you know that more than 20 per cent of the ticks in your area carry Lyme disease bacteria then we don’t need to check in on that. That is what we now call an ‘at-risk area.’ “

That means if a tick is found on a person, and is believed to have been there for more than 24 hours, then the patient should get antibiotics to prevent Lyme infection, even without any testing of the tick. It takes 24 hours before bacteria in the tick’s gut move to its salivary glands and are transferred to a person.

After three days, the preventive treatment won’t work so patients then wait for symptoms or enough time for antibodies to evolve to show up on a test. It can take more than a month before symptoms appear. They’re mostly similar to the effects of influenza, including fever and aches, as well as — usually but not always — a rash. It typically takes just about as long for the immune system’s antibodies to show up on a lab test.

If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause serious illnesses such as meningitis, but Etches is quick to point out that because it is caused by a bacteria, it’s treatable with drugs.

“It’s a good-news story, actually, that there is antibiotics that work to treat Lyme disease,” she said.

Most public-health offices in Canada used to test ticks submitted by the public, as well as conducting their own surveillance by actively seeking out tick populations and testing them. Some, including Ottawa’s, have decided now that Lyme is endemic, they should shift to public education and prevention as well as treatment.

Lyme disease was named after the town of Lyme, Conn., where the first case was diagnosed in 1975. It is caused by bacteria that are traded back and forth among black-legged ticks and migratory birds and small mammals like mice and chipmunks. Ticks bite birds and small mammals infected with the bacteria and get infected and then spread the disease when they bite their next victims.

Before 10 years ago, most of the cases diagnosed in Canada were in people bitten by ticks while travelling in the United States. But climate change has led to southern Canada seeing milder winters, which means the ticks that migrate to Canada on the backs of migratory birds are now surviving the winter in larger numbers, spreading the Lyme-causing bacteria more rapidly.

Canada started keeping track of Lyme disease cases in 2009, when 144 cases were confirmed or considered probable. Only 79 of those cases were believed to have been contracted in Canada.

In 2017, more than 1,400 cases were confirmed or probable across the country, more than two-thirds of them in Ontario and most of them believed to have been contracted locally.

National statistics for 2018 are not yet available but in Ontario, the number actually fell significantly, from 967 in 2017 to 612 in 2018. Etches said that was because 2018 was hotter and drier than 2017, and ticks thrive in wet, cool weather.

A 2014 study by the National Collaborating Centre for Infectious Diseases at the University of Manitoba suggested the Lyme-carrying ticks are expanding their territory by about 46 km a year, an expectation being borne out in health units’ mapping

In 2017 and 2018, Point Pelee National Park near Windsor, Ont., was considered to be an at-risk region but the rest of Windsor-Essex County in Ontario’s southernmost tip was not. In 2019, almost all of the county has been added as an at-risk area.

In 2017 all of Nova Scotia was declared to be at risk for Lyme Disease.

In New Brunswick, six of 15 counties were declared at-risk as of 2018.

There are also at-risk areas for Lyme in southern Manitoba, northwestern Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec. While some cases of Lyme have been found in the other four provinces, the numbers are very low and mostly contracted elsewhere.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

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