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Pot brownies in Canada could be 10 times weaker than in several U.S. states. Here’s why some people think that could be a big problem

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CALGARY—Very few businesses long to be regulated. Baked Edibles is one of them.

For the last three years, the Victoria, B.C.-based company has supplied edibles and topicals — such as salves and massage oils — to around 500 businesses across Canada. It remains an underground operation; these popular products were not legalized along with cannabis flower and oils last October.

Sean Bird, Baked Edibles’ general manager, says the business is ready to adapt and submit to the federal government’s coming regulations once they’re finalized. But he warned that the current section on edibles, as it currently stands, only allows a very conservative dose of THC — the main psychoactive component found in cannabis.

He believes the proposed limit of 10 milligrams per package of edibles, small even for novice users, will keep customers returning to the black market. Alternatively, consumers can cook up stronger edibles at home with relative ease.

“They will find other methods. Perhaps these methods will not be regulated,” Bird said. “As we’ve seen in the past, the black market will fill any holes it can. It will remain strong if there’s demand.”

California, Colorado and Washington states allow a single package of edibles — containing multiple gummies, brownies, cookies or other treats — to contain up to 100 milligrams of THC. Oregon’s regulations are somewhat stricter at 50 milligrams.

Despite its draft regulations allowing just a fifth of Oregon’s limit, Health Canada said it looked to U.S. states for inspiration and cited the U.S. experience as proof that legalization does erode the black market’s staying power.

“Experience in the U.S. has clearly shown that the legalization and regulation of cannabis in several U.S. states has led to a significant displacement of the illegal market, over time, in those jurisdictions,” said Health Canada in a statement.

Part of Canada’s cautiousness comes from fears of overconsumption. Unlike smoking a joint or vaping cannabis oil, edibles have a delay between consumption and when a user starts to experience its effects. Novice users might eat an edible, not feel anything, and then eat several more under the assumption that they haven’t had enough.

While cannabis overconsumption — colloquially referred to as “greening out” — can be acutely unpleasant and may mean a trip to a hospital’s emergency room, it isn’t fatal.

Rebecca Haines-Saah, an assistant professor at the University of Calgary’s department of community health sciences, agreed a 10-milligram THC limit is a very low dose. For most users, it would mean a relatively mellow high, although she noted that edibles produce a different experience than smoking or vaping.

“I imagine that putting out the draft regulations with a very, very low dose is meant to respond to this general concern among public health authorities,” she said.

Haines-Saah said it’s worth paying attention to the issue of overconsumption but said recent statistics suggesting an increase in hospital visits need to be taken in context. Before cannabis was legalized in Canada and certain U.S. states, bringing a child to the ER because they accidentally ate a special brownie could also mean a visit from child-welfare authorities. Now, she argued, parents in those jurisdictions are more likely to come forward.

“It’s a really tricky issue to figure out,” Haines-Saah said.

Parliament is expected to approve the regulations, in some form, no later than Oct. 17. Consultations continue between Health Canada, cannabis industry players, provincial and territorial governments, First Nations and other members of the public.

However they turn out, the final rules will have a big impact. Edibles are likely to be a significant part of Canada’s recreational cannabis scene going forward, according to Mitchell Osak, managing director of business consulting and technology services at Grant Thornton LLP, who advises companies in the Canadian cannabis industry.

Between January and July of 2018, he said, the demand for edibles in California and Colorado made up about 43 per cent of the total market for weed. Many potential consumers in Canada are staying out of pot shops because they’re waiting for edibles to arrive.

“That’s how they want to experience cannabis,” Osak said.

And the new rules will almost certainly mean major changes for underground producers. According to Bird, breaking into the legal market will mean shuttering Baked Edibles as it currently exists, pulling out of arrangements with black market sellers and, it seems, discontinuing the potent edibles it currently sells.

Nonetheless, Bird said this was always the plan.

“We want to be regulated and we want to offer a safe and reliable product, and we want to work within the confines of the law,” he said.

Brennan Doherty is a work and wealth reporter with StarMetro Calgary. Follow him on Twitter: @bren_doherty

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Anglais

‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Anglais

Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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