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Feds change pot drink regulations, allowing Canadians to buy more beverages at once

OTTAWA — The federal government has approved a change in how the cannabis content of beverages is calculated, pushing the number of standard-sized, canned pot drinks that can be bought at once from five to 48.
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Various cannabis drinks are seen in Toronto, Friday, Aug. 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giordano Ciampini

OTTAWA — The federal government has approved a change in how the cannabis content of beverages is calculated, pushing the number of standard-sized, canned pot drinks that can be bought at once from five to 48.

The change announced Friday and effective immediately makes one gram of dried cannabis equivalent to 570 grams of a pot drink, an increase from the 70 grams of a pot drink the government currently equates to one gram of dried cannabis.

One gram of dried cannabis is also now equivalent to 70 grams of non-solids containing cannabis like oils.

The shift in equivalency is important because the Cannabis Act, the federal legislation which paved the way for pot’s legalization, allows Canadians to carry no more than 30 g of dried cannabis or its "equivalent" at one time.

Single cannabis beverages sold in Canada could also not contain more than 10 mg of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), pot’s psychoactive component.

That left Canadians unable to buy more than five 355mL cans of pot drinks with 2 or 2.5 mg of THC in each, but able to purchase nine beverages that come in 222 mL cans with 10 mg of THC at once or even 100 bottles of cannabis oil spray containing 50,000 mg of THC.

The changes have increased the quantity of cannabis drinks adults can possess at one time to 17.1 litres from 2.1 litres.

Members of the industry have long pushed for this change.

They complained consumers were being inconvenienced by the past formula and kept from buying six-packs – a popular format for beer drinkers.

"Canadians can finally purchase a six-pack, 24, or up to 48 of their favourite cannabis beverages to enjoy with family and friends, which represents a win for consumer choice as this innovative category takes a leap forward," wrote David Klein, chief executive officer of Canopy Growth Corp., a licensed cannabis producer, in a statement.

"As our sector matures, today’s changes mark a critical next step by the federal government and demonstrate the necessary evolution of cannabis regulations to support a responsible and competitive cannabis industry in Canada."

The change was under consideration since March, when the government published a proposal on the matter in the Canada Gazette. That started a 45-day consultation period, where feedback from stakeholders, public health officials and consumers was collected. It ended April 26.

Cannabis drinks started hitting shelves in most provinces at the start of 2020. They were a hailed as a way to lure cannabis-hesitant consumers into exploring pot usage, but have since generated sluggish sales.

Pot beverages made up two per cent of sales across the Ontario Cannabis Store’s website and the shops it supplies between Jan. 1 and March 31, the most recent quarter it has released data. Oils made up just as small a share of sales recorded by the provincial pot distributor during that period.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 9, 2022.

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press

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