Island Health warns against edible pot products

Island Health's medical health officer worried more children could end up in hospital after accidentally ingesting edible pot products.

The City of Victoria’s decision not to regulate the sale of edible pot products at medical marijuana dispensaries means more children could end up in hospital after accidentally ingesting the product, according to Island Health.

Last Thursday, council voted to allow the sale of edible pot products in medical marijuana dispensaries, despite health and safety concerns raised by the province’s medical health officer, Dr. Perry Kendall.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said it’s not the city’s job to regulate what goes into the products.

“We’re already doing the work of the federal government. I am very loathe to take on the work of the provincial government,” Helps said. “It’s clearly not our job. We don’t regulate prescription drugs, we don’t see what’s in each and every pill, that’s not our job. It’s not our job to say what’s in brownies that are sold in retail outlets in our city.”

However, with no restrictions around the sale of edible pot products, Island Health’s medical health officer Dr. Murray Fyfe said it increases the likelihood that children will get their hands on the products.

“A child is naturally attracted to things like cookies, candies and brownies and they’re not going to be able to tell the difference between one with medical marijuana and one that isn’t,” Fyfe said, adding the City of Vancouver recently restricted the sale of edible products.

Fyfe said there has been research out of the U.S., where a number of states have legalized medical marijuana, increasing the availability of edible pot products. As a result, there has been a large increase in the number of children ending up in the emergency department or intensive care unit due to cannabis intoxication.

“That’s a big concern that we might see something similar here if the edible products become more available,” Fyfe added.

Island Health also has concerns about the potency of edible pot products. When eating pot products, it could take anywhere from three to four hours to feel the full effects of it, which could cause people to ingest more than needed.

“When it does hit them, they’re going to be extremely intoxicated from it,” Fyfe said. “When you inhale it and it’s a very strong dose, you can tell very quickly and basically inhale less. You can’t do that with ingested products.”

In a separate motion during Thursday’s meeting, Helps plans to write to the chief medical officer of Island Health requesting it ensures food safe requirements and medical considerations are met for the sale of edible marijuana products.

But Fyfe said that isn’t within Island Health’s jurisdiction. The health authority can monitor how the kitchen operates with respect to hygiene and cooking practices, but staff don’t have the ability to look at marijuana that might go into some of the products because there are no standards around non-medical cannabis.

City staff also brought forward other recommendations to regulate medical marijuana-related businesses.

As part of the regulations, storefront retailers must not be opened between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m., no individuals under the age of 19 are allowed, no advertising to promote the use of marijuana to a minor is allowed, and health and safety warning signs must be posted on the premises. Marijuana must not be consumed on the premise as well and the cost to obtain a businesses licence would be between $4,000 to $5,000. It also keeps marijuana businesses 200 metres apart from each other.

The bylaws will be brought forward to council again in June.