Canadian convenience stores are calling on the government to apply the same packaging and labelling restrictions to both tobacco and cannabis products following their legalisation yesterday (17 October.)

Canada is now the second country after Uruguay to legalise the sale, possession and use of recreational cannabis, although laws on minimum age and where it can be bought vary across the different provinces and territories.

However, while the country is currently progressing with plans to introduce plain (standardised) packaging for tobacco products, cannabis producers are permitted to use their brand name and logos on the new cannabis packaging, subject to size limitations.

The size, shape and material used in cannabis packaging has also not been standardised.

Health Canada said the more flexible cannabis packaging regulations would allow consumers to make informed decisions.

Satinder Chera, president of the Canadian Convenience Stores Association (CCSA), said the same logic needed to be applied to tobacco.

The inconsistencies between tobacco and cannabis could damage “thousands of small businesses” by opening the door to further increases in sales of illegal tobacco while giving unfair and preferential treatment to the sellers of cannabis, he added.

Cannabis can now be legally bought from the age of 19 in all but two of its 13 states and provinces, where the age is 18 (Quebec and Alberta).

In the vast majority of states and provinces it can only be bought via government-operated shops with set prices, and via controlled websites.

However, in Manitoba and Alberta it can also be bought in privately licenced stores and online. Ontario is also moving forward with a “tightly regulated” private retail model for cannabis that will launch by April 1, 2019.

The Ontario Cannabis Store will be the exclusive wholesaler to these stores. Private stores will be introduced with strict controls to safeguard children and youth and combat the illegal market.

The Canadian government is currently working on plans to implement plain (standardised) packaging for tobacco with similar requirements to Australia and in the UK.

However, according to its Regulatory Impact Assessment, the new Canadian plain packs would feature a ‘slide and shell’ format.

Accommodating only slide and shell packaging could require retailers to retrofit their existing gantries and storage facilities, potentially costing each store $1,500, the CCSA claims.