Although marijuana edibles are banned by Island Health, canna-bakers continue to provide a service they say is very much needed.
In March 2017, Island Health (VIHA) initiated a crackdown on the sale of edibles in dispensaries across Victoria, citing that the Food and Drugs Act does not recognize cannabis as a food ingredient. As a result, edibles remain one of the most highly policed products in the cannabis grey market.
In 2009, Owen Smith, head baker at Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club (VCBC) petitioned the Supreme Court to allow medical cannabis patients to access edibles.
And in 2012, he won.
Despite this, Island Health continues to issue on-the-spot fines to dispensaries selling edibles, arguing that they appeal to children and their contents are hard to control.
“The whole reason for the edible ban is that VIHA is pursuing this matter from a Foodsafe perspective,” said Julia Veintrop, manager at the VCBC. “No one has gotten sick from edibles, there have been no complaints, and we continue to sell edibles and always will.” As far as VCBC is concerned, “there is no edible ban.”
Edibles are an alternative cannabis ingestion method to smoking and are favoured by seniors and ill people seeking pain relief. “As pain receptors are located in our digestion tract, edibles enable cannabis to be absorbed through the blood stream and go to where it’s needed most,” Veintrop explains.
Over in Esquimalt, canna-baker Cheri Velasco doesn’t plan to hang up her green and purple apron anytime soon.
“Seniors don’t want to smoke pot,” she said as she slowly tempered a bowl of warm chocolate in her kitchen. “That’s why we make edibles, to service this group and really, anyone who is experiencing pain.”
Velasco, sister Lenore LeMay and Velasco’s daughter Amanda are the family behind Euphoria Potions and Edibles. They ran a successful store in The Great Canadian Canna Mall on Quadra Street until December, when the City of Victoria denied its rezoning application and the location was forced to close.
Euphoria creates a variety of products: infused pepperoni pizzas, cream cheese swirl brownies and vegan chocolate chip cookies. They even make organic dog biscuits for suffering pets.
On this day, Cheri and Amanda are infusing chocolate bars with cannabis oil while LeMay works a few metres away on her laptop, brushing up on the latest news in the slow climb to legalization.
“I have a passion for helping people,” says Cheri, a former social worker and commercial baker. “This is an extension of my life’s work to take care of people, particularly using food.”
Euphoria officially launched in April 2016, six years after the family began making their own infused products as a solution to ailments the family was dealing with personally.
Le May has cerebral palsy which causes chronic pain and restricted movement; she uses edibles to manage her symptoms. Their 81-year-old mother consumes their homemade caramels to combat her arthritis, as does Amanda, to manage anxiety.
“All of our products have been developed as the result of a problem,” says Cheri. “Cannabis is a medicinal plant so I feel like a healer.” She believes the ban is denying people access to a medicine the Supreme Court has ruled is safe – and for no sound reason.
The latest proposed amendments by Health Canada to the Cannabis Act indicate the regulation of edibles is more than a year away.
“I’m confident things will change. We have the right to edibles. We’ve already won,” said Veintrop.