Cannabis cuisine and cocktails are coming soon
A 2017 Dalhousie University study found that 46% of Canadians are interested in trying cannabis-infused food products.
Chefs from across Canada identified cannabis-infused food and beverages as the top two up-and-coming foodservice trends in Restaurant Canada’s 2019 Chef Survey. A year after the federal government legalized recreational cannabis use, Health Canada is moving forward with edible cannabis regulations that will come into force under the Cannabis Act.
The new federal regulations will allow each province and territory to decide the legal minimum age for edible cannabis use, where adults can buy and use it, and how much adults can possess. Health Canada’s initial proposal limits THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) content for infused edibles and beverages to a maximum of 10 mg per package. Ingestible extracts, such as capsules, would be limited to 10 mg of THC per unit.
“Everyone is very curious about what opportunities will become possible once the federal government releases final regulations promised for this fall,” says Marlee Wasser, communications and policy specialist for Restaurants Canada. “The draft regulations would effectively prevent any in-restaurant production of fresh edible cannabis food products to customers, since they prohibit the production of food and edible cannabis products in the same facility.”
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis. It is responsible for the way our brains and bodies respond to cannabis, including the high and intoxication.
CBD (cannabidiol) is a chemical component found in the cannabis plant which is related to THC but doesn't get you high. It is used to help treat chronic pain, anxiety, inflammation, and depression, among others.
Wasser says it is possible that foodservice businesses might eventually be able to sell cannabis-infused food and beverage products that were pre-packaged elsewhere. “But that will be up to the provinces to decide if they will allow that, since they are the ones who make the rules about who can sell cannabis products in their jurisdictions and how licensing works around that.”
Setting industry standards
Restaurants Canada has been consulting with all levels of government and participating in the development of responsible service education to ensure the voice of foodservice is represented as policy decisions are being made, Wasser says. “Restaurants Canada has always played a leading role when it comes to responsible service across the country, setting industry standards for education on duty of care, liability and impairment issues around alcohol, and we are playing a similar role with cannabis.”
By providing emerging information on market opportunities and risks, the organization is helping operators make decisions that are appropriate for their business, she says. “Right now, we’re in wait-and-see mode until the final federal regulations on edible cannabis are released. And then we’ll be waiting for the provinces to introduce their own rules about what will be permitted for foodservice businesses.”
A new world of sensory stimulation
Trailblazers like chef Travis Petersen are already on the move. The owner of The Nomad Cook has served more than 2,500 edible cannabis meals using a flavourless, odourless tincture he produces from distillate and adds once the dish is ready to go. “Infusion is the safest way to go about introducing people to it. Cannabis terpenes are going to roll out a whole new world of flavours, tastes and smells that people haven’t experienced before.”
When diners arrive, he asks a series of questions about their cannabis usage, and ranks them on a scale of one to five. One is about 10 mg of THC for the entire meal balanced with 50 mg of CBD (cannabidiol), and five is about 150 mg of THC. “Too much THC for someone who is new with no tolerance is really going to make them uncomfortable. It’s about getting the levels just right for everybody.”
More than a third of the people who come to his events don’t smoke cannabis. The average is 34 years old, and 56 per cent are female, he reports. “We get people from all age ranges and walks of life. It’s not about getting stoned. When cannabis is dosed accurately for each person, it really creates an enjoyable dinner space where everyone feels comfortable. People come to the dinners as strangers and leave as friends.”
For Petersen, the satisfaction comes from introducing diners to something completely new and adventurous. “I used a limoncello sativa terpene and put it in with a pastry cream on a matcha pancake, and when I put the dish down, you could smell the fresh bud. And when people took a bite, you could just see that eureka moment of, ‘whoa, this is something new.’”
By extracting pure cannabis terpenes, Petersen can better adjust his meals to direct the way diners will react. A canape with humulene sharpens the appetite, for instance, while limonene triggers energy. “We’re the first country of chefs that can legally work with this product in our kitchens. We have a small window before the U.S. market legalizes, and right now I want to empower as many other chefs as possible with safety and knowledge so we are ready for this new culinary adventure.”
- Edible cannabis (solid): 10 mg THC per package, no added alcohol, limits on caffeine, no added vitamins or minerals, child resistant plain packaging.
- Edible cannabis (beverage): 10 mg THC per container, no added alcohol, limits on caffeine, no added vitamins or minerals, child resistant plain packaging.
- Cannabis extract (ingested): 10 mg THC per unit (such as a capsule), or 1,000 mg THC per package, no added vitamins or minerals; no sugars, colours or sweeteners; no nicotine or caffeine.
- All edible cannabis products to be shelf-stable and not require refrigeration or freezing.
- Production of food and edible cannabis prohibited in the same facility.
THE BUZZ IS COMING
Edibles could quadruple in Canada and the U.S. by 2022 to a value of more than $4.1 billion, according to a report by marijuana market research company The Arcview Group.
Labatt Brewing Company (a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev) is partnering with Nanaimo, B.C.-based cannabis company Tilray on a $50 million study of non-alcohol beverages containing THC and CBD.
Ben & Jerry’s has announced it is making its own brand of CBD-infused ice cream, but first it needs to be approved by the FDA.
For more information on the proposed amendments to the Cannabis Regulations, visit Canada.ca/Cannabis.
By Lawrence Herzog