Edible hemp: will SQDC's new savory products hit the mark?

Edible hemp: will SQDC’s new savory products hit the mark?

Ramen noodles, sausages, peanuts: these are some of the edible products that have recently appeared on the shelves of the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC). The offer is raising eyebrows among observers who see it as inadequate to compete with the black market.

It will be by the end of 2023 SQDC has launched several cannabis-infused savory dishes. These differ from the first-ever edible bites offered by the state-owned enterprise in 2022, which were based on fruit pastes and spices. Subsequently, beet chips appeared on the shelves, as well as dried cauliflower and dried figs.

Marijuana consumers in Quebec now have access to roughly twenty types of products. ready to eat.

I do not think that we will significantly increase the capture of the illegal food market with these products.

Serge Brochu, who is also a researcher at the University Institute of Addiction, points out that Quebec is the only province that prohibits the sale of sweets, candies, desserts, chocolates or any other food containing cannabis that could be attractive to young people under 21.

According to him, these limitations explain why we find on tablets the so-called SQDC salty and non-traditional products.

I’m interested in the choice of ramen noodles, he points out. It is a food that is widely consumed by teenagers.

Mr. Brochu admits that SQDC it has a comprehensive mandate: it must convince cannabis enthusiasts to leave the illicit market without doing any form of promotion in order not to attract new clientele. It is a balancing act that is far from easy.summarizes.

Forms of consumption popular with Quebecers

  • By inhalation: 81%
  • In food product: 31%
  • In the form of oral drops: 28%
  • Vaping: 26%
  • In liquid form: 13%
  • In pill form: 12%

Note : Each user can consume cannabis in more than one way.
Source : Quebec Cannabis Survey 2023 by the Statistics Institute of Quebec

Examples of edible products sold at SQDC.

On the shelves of SQDC are salty and non-traditional edible products.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Grocery store

A selection that aims to be rigorous

Among the 17% of Quebecers who consumed cannabis in 2023, a third took it in the form of food. Across Canada, edibles are the second most popular cannabis product and have been growing in popularity since legalization in 2018.

Well aware of these data, SQDC decided to sell edible products despite the restrictive regulatory framework adopted by the Legault government.

To be able to play through our framework, we have to be creative with the industry, explains Geneviève Giroux, vice-president of supply and supply marketing at the Société québécoise de cannabis. It created an internal committee that established a number of criteria for selecting edible products submitted by suppliers. In particular, the committee evaluates whether the shape, taste or texture of the product is attractive to a young audience.

The committee mainly selects products with strong flavors, such as fruit nibbles containing apricot and reishi (mushroom) or even dill-flavored peanuts, notes Ms. Giroux. She confirms that her team will continue to diversify into edibles, which currently represent only 1% of the company’s sales. SQDC.

Main criteria for choosing edible products

  • Face

  • Color

  • Texture

  • Ingredients

  • Taste

  • name

  • Price

  • Attractive to people under 21 years of age

  • Origin of the manufacturer

  • The presence of the product on the illegal market

A man in a factory.

Alexandre Poulin, co-founder of Gayonica, one of the only suppliers in SQDC that offers sweet edible products.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Grocery store

The Quebec company Gayonica is one of the only suppliers SQDC which offer sweet edible products. Among them we can find bites with the flavor of blueberry and lavender or apple and matcha.

Alexandre Poulin, co-founder of Gayonica, explains that he had to submit a number of recipes before getting approval. SQDC. Several ingredients are prohibited, such as some sweeteners, cocoa, sugar and maple syrup, she points out. Is it possible to be competitive with other legal offers, yes. But compared to the illegal market, it is difficult.

Contacted by email, Quebec’s Ministry of Health and Social Services said it had no intention of reviewing the ban on sugary foods. This measure aims in particular to reduce risks of accidental poisoning and health risks associated with products with a high concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)said its spokesperson Marie-Pierre Blier.

Risk of attracting newcomers rather than combating the black market

THE THC, the main psychoactive compound of cannabis, is responsible for the euphoric effect. Maximum quantity THC permitted in edible products is 10 mg. This dosage is determined by the federal government. Health Canada says it set the limit to avoid the risk of overconsumption.

However, the federal government commissioned a committee of experts to carry out a wider consultation on the cannabis law. Several industry representatives argued, particularly in a petition filed last November, that the increase in dosage THC it was necessary to compete with the black market in edible products.

The committee is due to submit its final report, which will include a number of recommendations, to Parliament by March next year.

According to François-Olivier Hébert, a researcher in the neuroscience axis of the University of Montreal Hospital Center (CHUM), the dose is limited to 10 mg THC it is not suitable for all consumption needs, both for recreational and medicinal purposes.

For people who are very used to consuming cannabis orally, doses are generally much higher than 5 to 10 mg.underlines the one who is also a member of the Living Cannabis Laboratory.

The maximum allowed amount of THC in edible products is 10 mg.

The maximum allowed amount of THC in edible products is 10 mg.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Grocery store

François-Olivier Hébert notes that the black market remains attractive because it offers a range of products with very high concentration THC at prices similar to or even lower than legal food. He points out that classified products can be dangerous, both because of their inaccurate dosing and the risk of cross-contamination with other substances.

Mr. Hébert believes that the food supply SQDC it falls short of its goal of attracting edible cannabis fans. According to him, with snack-type products, the state-owned enterprise risks attracting new consumers.

It can be tempting for people who are new to it, who may want to start taming their cannabis use with something closer to what they know.

This biologist specializing in the neurocognitive effects of cannabis is convinced that we must offer edible products to customers whose quality and production processes are supervised by the state. Sooner or later, Quebec will have to allow sugary products, he thinks.

Individuals who are used to consuming cannabis orally want products in the form of a treat or dessert. If they don’t have it on the legal market, they will continue to get it from the unregulated marketwarns François-Olivier Hébert.

Facade of SQDC in Rimouski.

Report by Johane Despins, Daphnée Hacker-B. and François Perré on SQDC’s edible products featured in The Grocery Store

Photo: Radio-Canada / Jean-Luc Blanchet

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