Cannabis edibles will be legal to purchase in Canada this October, but Canadians’ appetite for pot-infused foods appears to be waning.
In a new survey by Dalhousie University, nearly 36% of respondents said they would purchase cannabis-infused food products once legalized. That’s down from 45.8% in 2017, when Dalhousie researchers conducted a similar survey ahead of the legalization of recreational pot use in Canada.
The study, titled “Edibles and Canadian consumers’ willingness to consider recreational cannabis in food or beverage products,” also found less interest on the restaurant side. This year, 25.5% of respondents said they would be willing to order a dish with cannabis at a restaurant, down from 38.5% in 2017. In addition, 15.8% agreed that a cannabis-infused dish would replace an alcoholic drink they would normally have had, down from 26.6% in 2017.
What’s behind the decline in interest? “The government made [edibles] boring,” says lead study author Sylvain Charlebois, professor in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University. “A few years ago, the Liberals invited the whole country to a mega party, only to end up in a dodgy cafeteria with Kool-Aid.”
Charlebois believes Canadians’ enthusiasm has been affected by Health Canada’s proposed regulatory framework, which has put a damper on the food and beverage industry’s excitement about edibles. “There is a bit of a tug of war going on between Health Canada and industry, and I think people are feeling it,” he says.
The major obstacle for industry is that under the proposed rules, cannabis-infused food and beverage products must be made in a separate facility, which Charlebois says is cost-prohibitive for manufacturers.
“Two years ago, people thought everything is possible and a lot of things can happen,” he says. “And now, the regulatory framework is very restrictive, so we’re likely not going to see a whole lot of products other than illegal products.”
The study also found Canadians are more wary about kids getting access to edibles. In 2019, 60.8% of survey respondents said they were concerned about the risk for children and young adults who would have more access to cannabis, up from 58.5% in 2017. More than half (54.1%) said they’re concerned about the risks for pets that would have more access to edibles.
The majority of Canadians (63.6%) believe edibles pose a greater risk to children and young adults than other forms of cannabis.
A growing number of Canadians see cannabis as a healthy ingredient: 18.7% agree it’s a healthy ingredient for their diet, up from 12.6% in 2017. However, 59.7% (same as 2017) are concerned about over-consuming edibles and worry the effects would be too strong.
The primary reasons for purchasing a cannabis-infused food product or ordering a dish infused with cannabis are: for its therapeutic qualities (31.8%), because I’m curious and would like to try it (25.8%), for its psychoactive effects (17.9), for its taste (11.7%) and because I consider it as a healthy alternative (7.9%).