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Don’t allow cannabis edibles that look like candy, medical officer of health says

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Cannabis products made in shapes that appeal to children — such as gummy bears or lollipops — should be banned when the sale of edibles becomes legal later this year, Toronto’s medical officer of health says.

The city’s board of health should also urge the federal government to ban cannabis vaping liquids that are offered in “youth-friendly” flavours that mimic candy or soft drinks, Dr. Eileen de Villa said Friday.

“One of the major objectives of the legislation is to actually protect health and, in particular, to protect youth from the potential harmful effects associated with cannabis,” de Villa said.

“We feel the best thing to do in terms of protecting youth, is to avoid having these edible products in a gummy bear, lollipop or other shapes that might be appealing to youth.”

De Villa added that there’s a need for clearly defined labelling, which includes both dosing information and warnings about the risks of combining cannabis edibles with alcohol or highly caffeinated drinks.

Consultations on those amendments are set to end next week.

Villa also supports on how much THC — the primary active component of cannabis — is available in one-time-use vaping devices, and would like them to include a mechanism that limits the maximum quantity inhaled in a single puff.

“The federal regulations already have quite a bit in this regard,” she said.

Industry consultant Mitchell Osak commended Toronto Public Health for what he deemed a list of prudent suggestions ahead of the products becoming legal.

“The recommendations are consistent with the federal government’s objective around safe and responsible usage and protection of youth,” said Osak, a managing director of business consulting and technology services at Grant Thornton LLP, who advises companies in the Canadian cannabis industry including licensed producers, investors and governments.

Despite their illegal status, edible cannabis products are currently being sold at stores throughout Toronto.

A spokesperson for one dispensary visited by the Star this week said its customers are being given “childproof” bags to prevent youngsters from accidentally eating cannabis products that come in the form of a candy or a cookie.

That doesn’t go far enough, says Osak, who believes that restricting the colour and design of the products is the right approach.

During a visit to a Cannabis and Fine Edibles (C.A.F.E.) location on Harbord St. this week, the Star observed a wide array of edibles ranging in potency from 55 to 300 milligrams of THC.

All of them exceeded the government’s proposed limit of 10 milligrams, which Osak described as “a little too cautious.” He’s concerned that such low levels of THC will push customers towards the black market.

Information labels on products sold at C.A.F.E caution users to start with a small portion in order to determine one’s tolerance level.

C.A.F.E. spokesperson David Thompson said “childproof” bags and information on packaging are some of the ways the underground cannabis retailer — which has several locations across the city — is trying to improve safety for customers.

“We make sure to try to place our edible dosing guidelines on each and every package that leaves the store,” Thompson said, adding, “We believe Health Canada’s position to begin at ultralow dose concentrations is warranted.”

He said C.A.F.E. is advising edible producers to read the regulations that are being discussed and to begin implementing the recommendations.

“Health Canada has to be a beacon and a responsible steward to affect change over time,” he said. “We do not see any of this as a problem.”

Jason Miller is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Reach him on email: jasonmiller@thestar.ca

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Anglais

‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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Anglais

Birdhouse Wingerie & Bar is the Latest to Hatch in West Island’s Bubbling Restaurant Scene

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Wings are the thing at the latest restaurant to make its mark on Montreal’s West Island: Birdhouse Wingerie & Bar.

At the buzzy new Dollard-Des Ormeaux eatery, the bird limbs come aplenty, with a menu listing eleven “wet & messy” wings, including smoked apple habanero, sriracha lime, and cherry cola BBQ; and four — cacio e pepe, ketchups chip, Nashville hot, and the garlicky, lemon pepper “vampire slayer” — dry rub flavours. They come 10 for $18 or 20 for $34, plus the option of ranch, parmesan, or blue cheese dipping sauce.

Tacos, nachos, poutines (one made with bone marrow, another with tater tots), smashed burgers, salads, and a classic buttermilk fried chicken dinner are just sampling of the other dishes that round out the offering. On the drinks side, there are cocktails, sangrias, and spiked milkshakes in popular chocolate bar flavours: After Eight, Skor, Bounty, or Reeses.

Opened on July 5, Birdhouse is among a recent influx of restaurants to grace the island’s western end, including birria taco slinger Tacos Don Rigo and barbecue joint Smoke Box — a double whammy in the same Pierrefonds area strip mall. That comes in addition to plans for Fairview Pointe Claire’s incoming “District Gourmand” (slated to usher in Tommy Café), and, of course, a number of the area’s longer-standing stalwarts — from southern belle Bistro Nolah to old-school casse-croûte Smoked Meat Pete — that have helped bolster the West Island’s culinary credentials.

The brand-new Brunswick Boulevard restaurant is the brainchild of Montreal entrepreneur Lorne Schwartz, restaurateur George Massouras (of Madisons and Arahova Souvlaki), and among the other partners involved, Brahm Mauer, son of the founder of beloved buffalo hot wings expert Wings ‘n’ Things. Mauer has tried his hand at reviving the original Wings ‘n’ Things recipe — the restaurant originally opened in 1986 — over the years, including with a Royalmount Avenue location in 2012, then as a roaming summertime food truck and NDG pop-up. That same truck has now been made over with a Birdhouse-branded livery to be deployed for private events.

A likely draw to many, Birdhouse is reprising the “famous flavours, untouched” of the once-upon-a-time NDG staple, represented on its menu as “The Legendary WNT Buffalo” chicken wing.

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