The Alberta government quietly informed cannabis retailers late Friday vape cartridges will be available for order starting Monday.
The decision comes a little over one month after the province put a hold on releasing the cartridges, saying it wanted to review the safety of the products.
Cannabis vape cartridges are already legally available in other provinces, and they’re easily obtainable on the black market, according to cannabis retailers.
Heather Holmen, communications manager for Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis, confirmed an email went out to retailers on Friday alerting them that cannabis vape cartridge products would be on their weekly order forms starting on Monday.
It could take up to another week for the orders to be filled and shipped to stores, but she expects to see them in brick-and-mortar retail shops in the next few weeks.
“Government reviewed the available evidence, data and other provinces’ decisions on cannabis vaping and determined that Alberta will allow for the sale of cannabis vapes,” said Holmen.
“From a government perspective, it was important to review the evidence that was available and ensure that the decisions was made in the best interest of Albertans.”
She said the Alberta government and AGLC will continue to monitor the products and the available evidence to ensure the continued health and safety of Albertans.
Colten Mertz, district manager with Urban Canna, said he was surprised to see the email from the AGLC Friday evening.
“I was not expecting it in the near future at all,” he said. “I was under the impression that it got roped in with the tobacco vape review.”
Postmedia requested an interview with the Treasury Board and Finance ministry, the government department responsible for the review, but did not receive a response by deadline.
Mertz said given the number of people asking for vape products, he’s hopeful he’ll be able to satisfy more customers instead of having them leave his stores empty-handed.
But at the same time, he’s worried about competition from the black market.
“They didn’t give us any information on what they’d be taxing us,” said Mertz. “For instance in B.C. they have a 20 per cent vape tax.”
He said that means a half-gram legal vape cartridge in B.C. can cost about $100 with taxes, while a full-gram vape cartridge can be purchased on the black market for about half the cost.
Brittany Smith, a supervisor at Queen of Bud, explained vape cartridges will have about 100 to 200 “pulls” on them. An entire cartridge could have upwards of 1,000 milligrams of THC in it.
“From what I’ve seen from other licensed producers that have come in to show us their product, most of them are sitting around the 400 to 600 milligram (per cartridge) range.”
Edibles, by comparison, have a 10 milligram of TCH per package limit.
She said unlike edibles, which can take an hour to 90 minutes for their effects to become apparent, vapes are just like smoking. Anyone using a vape should begin to feel the effects in under a minute.
She said they will be advising vapers to go low and slow when they first try vaping cannabis.
“Have maybe one or two pulls off that cartridge and see how you feel after five or 10 minutes. And then have a little bit extra afterwards.”
The other benefit of vaping, she said, is the lack of a strong smell.
“They’re a little bit more discreet. It makes it easier to not have that smell if you’re in an apartment building,” said Smith.
With files from Bill Kaufmann