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CO Health Department Wants Marijuana Edibles Ban, But Forced to Drop It

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) called Monday for a ban on marijuana edibles, including brownies, cookies, and most candies, but was quickly pulled back after public health officials said they did not realize that voter-approved Amendment 64 makes legal all forms of marijuana.

In a statement, the department said its recommendation for a ban was “just that” and that the public health agency does not represent Governor John Hickenlooper on the issue and did not run its desire to prohibit edibles past his office.

The move for a ban on edibles within his administration puts the Democratic governor in a dicey position. He did not campaign against Amendment 64 when it was on the ballot, but said he was against it.

Colorado’s booming marijuana industry has raised money for his reelection, but, in a recent debate, he advised other states to keep the lid on recreational pot. CDPHE made the recommendation for a ban on edibles at a meeting for marijuana industry stakeholders, probably causing many to wonder whether the governor was behind it.

According to the polls, Hickenlooper is essentially tied with former GOP Congressman Bob Beauprez, who has opposed recreational marijuana.

Dr. Larry Wolk, CDPHE chief medical officer, was left trying to explain what happened.

“Considering only the public health perspective, however, edibles pose a definite risk to children, and that’s why we recommended limiting marijuana-infused products to tinctures and lozenges,” Wolk said. He added that the department was trying to put together a recommendation “only in consideration of the public health challenges of underage marijuana ingestion. It does not account for the dynamics of the black market or the guidelines set forward by Amendment 64.”
By withdrawing its recommendation, CDPHE is being trumped by both politics and the language of Amendment 64, which made the Colorado Department of Revenue the only regulatory authority for marijuana under the voter-approved initiative that legalized recreational marijuana sales in Colorado beginning just 10 months ago.

It’s unlikely, however, that the revenue department would ever have accepted such a ban, both because it is apparently not allowed by the language of Amendment 64 and the fact that revenue’s marijuana enforcement unit has its own fix coming.

Erratic dosing levels for some edible marijuana products have been the source of both tragic and comedic incidents since recreational sales got underway in Colorado.

Revenue previously announced plans for February 2015 implementation of new packaging and other changes. Those changes include setting a THC level of 10 milligrams for each serving of edible marijuana, with the maximum for the entire product of 100 milligrams. The new regulations are supposed to address the packaging, labeling and portioning of edible marijuana products so that they have a distinctive look.

Edibles were reportedly a factor in two deaths early this year, in addition to numerous emergency room trips involving children. Some comic incidents have also occurred, such as a New York Times columnist who took some edible marijuana and apparently never found a way out of her Denver hotel room.

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