The marijuana edibles issue is being dropped like a hot potato into the newly split Colorado Legislature after an advisory group’s mandate ran out before it could come to any kind of consensus. It will pit the state’s nearly one-year-old, cash-rich recreational marijuana industry against public health and non=profit health group Smart Colorado.
The last chance a legislatively mandated working group had to reach a consensus came last week and time ran out with many ideas, but no agreement. That group of stakeholders was created by House Bill 14-1366, which was adopted late in last year’s session just as edibles were running into some troubles.
Food infused with marijuana is the cause of two problems in Colorado. First, over- or under- dosing is a concern because it’s often difficult to combine hash oil with other ingredients and have it come out evenly distributed. Second, there are now so many products— around 300 according to Smart Colorado — that it’s not possible to distinguish the infused from the non-infused.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment made a last-ditch effort to get the stakeholders group to support a three-part approach that would include:
1. A method for identifying the product outside of the package;
2. Child-resistant packaging; and
3. The ability of the edible to be consistently produced, stored and transported in a manner that maintains the product’s integrity and protects it from foodborne pathogens
The proposal went nowhere, stopped by the group that was dominated by the marijuana industry and by a legal status now protected by the state constitution after voters made marijuana legal in any and all forms.
In its recommendation to the final stakeholders meeting, CDPHE said, “Labeling alone is insufficient to prevent unintentional poisoning, and young children often do not recognize products as dangerous from packaging alone.”
CDPHE says labeling policies need review because including normal food information like the standard nutritional panel just makes it more likely marijuana-infused products will be mixed up with regular products.
The Denver Post, the state’s largest daily newspaper, met the collapse of the stakeholders group with an editorial demanding that the Legislature do whatever it takes to make marijuana edibles distinguishable from regular foods.
“After months of futile meetings, a state task force that was supposed to make recommendations regarding the apperance of edible marijuana products has failed,” the Post editorial says. “But this effort should by no means be over. Lawmakers need to step up and act when they convene in January.”
Voters in Colorado split on legislative power this year, giving control of the Senate to the GOP and the House to the Democrats. Since passage of the voter initiative that made recreational marijuana legal, Colorado lawmakers have generally been either for it or willing to let the experiment “run its course.”
The Post wants either a stamp or a sprayed-on color that will mark marijuana edibles, be they for recreational or medical use. The editorial writers said it was disappointing the group that contained law enforcement officials, parents and industry representatives could not come to an agreement.
“The industry that has been manufacturing these products has a vested interest in keeping the status quo,” the Post said. “And critics have the difficult job of putting the cork back in the bottle.” The newspaper called up the Legislature to “scale back the anything goes edible market.” It says one manufacturer is buying familiar candies in bulk, infusing them and then repackaging them for resale.
“There is no constitutional provision that says edible marijuna must be available as granola, soda pop, or candy bars that look like what children eat without any way to distinguish the difference,” the Post said.
CDPHE had earlier recommended edibles be limited to lozenges and liquid drops, but did so without Gov. John Hickenloopers support. The Democratic governor was narrowly reelected with the financial support of the marijuana industry.
Update: In the original version of this story Smart Colorado was depicted as a anti-marijuana group, which a spokesman insists it is not.
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