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Quebec Chefs Probably Won’t Be Able to Work With Cannabis When It’s Legal

At least not very easily


While some American states with legal cannabis are starting to see everything from weed-centric pop-up dinners to infused smoothies, the same is less likely to happen when recreation marijuana becomes legal in Canada later this year.

According to Health Canada, edible forms of marijuana — chocolate, baked goods, ice cream, and beyond, usually eaten to get high — will be permitted. However, given that the provincial government will control sales in Quebec (and some other provinces), it likely won’t be easy for chefs, bakers, or chocolatiers to produce those treats and legally get them into the hands of the public.

Cannabis becomes legal across Canada on October 17 — at that time, only straight-up products such as fresh or dried cannabis, oil, seeds, and plants will be available. The sale of edible products will become legal sometime within a year of that date, but they’ll be subject to all the same regulations as any other cannabis product: for example, a federal license will be required to produce or work with cannabis.

And it seems unlikely the Quebec will allow small-scale cooks or bakers to sell any products they devise — this province will only permit marijuana sales through government stores, the SQDC (comparable to the SAQ for alcohol, at least in function). That means any baker or chocolate-maker would need to strike a deal with the government corporation — and if the SAQ is any example, small-scale producers won’t have an easy time with that, and edibles will be the domain of big companies that may shy away from getting too artisanal or creative.

In contrast, if cannabis sales were allowed through private dispensaries, as in US states like Oregon and California, bakers with the appropriate permits could convince individual dispensaries to carry their goods.

On top of that, a statement to Eater from Quebec’s ministry of health and social services hinted that the province might be stricter on edibles than the federal government. A representative said that edibles may be permitted in Quebec, but only after an “extensive analysis” on the potential health impacts. The statement also said that Quebec may place additional conditions on producers of edibles.

That can be contrasted with Colorado, where a special manufacturing license exists for retailers, allowing small-batch bakeries like Denver’s Sweet Grass Kitchen to flourish.

There’s also the question of cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive component of cannabis considered to be relaxing when ingested. In Los Angeles, Portland (Oregon), and other places, some establishments are offering smoothies and cocktails “spiked” with CBD oil — and they can get away with it due to CBD being classed as a supplement, and not a drug (depending on its origin). Those kinds of offerings are unlikely to happen in Canada, where CBD remains wholly in the same category as other cannabis products — Health Canada confirmed that such products should only be available at authorized dispensaries after October 17.

A Health Canada spokesperson noted to Eater that adults will be legally allowed to use products like cannabis oil to make their own weed-laced edibles or drinks at home, which may provide the only opening for chefs or bakers to get creative with marijuana in a culinary sense — in cities like Portland, cannabis pop-up dinners have surfaced in a legal grey zone.

These pop-ups take place in private residences and are framed as private dinners, but given that diners pay to eat and consume marijuana, the legality is rather dubious. Yet such pop-ups have avoided any kind of crackdown — and if the same happens in Quebec or Canada, it could be the only possibility for innovative culinary uses of marijuana, beyond buying what may well be mass-produced dispensary cookies or chocolate.