A new bill concerning edible marijuana products has passed the Colorado Legislature with bipartisan support. The new law requires that marijuana edibles be clearly recognizable as marijuana products even after they have been removed from their original container or packaging.
The bill was sponsored by the nonprofit advocacy group Smart Colorado, which cited concerns about accidental exposure to marijuana, particularly on the part of children. Various other measures to protect against accidental exposure and other potential hazards are also being considered by Colorado lawmakers, including limits on the strength of edible marijuana products and mandatory childproof packaging.
Medical Marijuana and Accidental Poisonings of Children
Many people have voiced concerns over accidental ingestion of marijuana since recreational pot went on sale in Colorado in January 2014. A 2013 study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that accidental poisonings among children increased after medical marijuana became available in the state in 2009. No reliable data exists about the impact of recreational marijuana sales on pediatric poisonings, but many people are worried that the widespread availability of marijuana edibles will cause even more incidents of accidental marijuana ingestion.
Pot Edibles Are Often Appealing, Hard to Distinguish
Smart Colorado and other activist groups are concerned that current marijuana edibles are too appealing and difficult to distinguish from non-marijuana treats. Candy, cookies and brownies infused with marijuana have become very popular among recreational consumers in Colorado. ArkView Market Research has estimated that infused products account for 21 percent of all Colorado marijuana sales, although some in the industry say the numbers are growing daily and are by now closer to 40 percent. Activists are concerned that these popular products are just the types of items that are particularly appealing to children.
There are also concerns that marijuana edibles are highly attractive to new marijuana users, who may not know how to consume them safely and responsibly. Activists hope that stricter limits on the amount of marijuana permitted in edible products will reduce the risk of new users accidentally overdosing.
The new rules governing the labeling and appearance of edible products are set to be implemented by January 2016. By that time, all marijuana edibles on the market must be shaped, stamped or colored in a way that makes them clearly distinct from similar products that do not contain marijuana.
Accurate Labeling a Problem for Edible Marijuana Products
Unfortunately, setting official limits on the quantity of marijuana that edible products can contain may only be half the battle.
A March study conducted by the Denver Post found that labels on marijuana products concerning the quantity of the drug present were frequently inaccurate—often extremely inaccurate. Many products that The Post tested were found to contain only a fraction of the amount of marijuana they claimed to have, while at least one was found to have more.
Both types of mislabeling have potential dangers. Products than contain more marijuana than they claim to have could easily lead to an accidental overdose. Products that contain less marijuana than their labels say could also cause confusion and risky behavior, particularly among inexperienced marijuana users, by leading users to believe that they can safely consume much higher quantities of marijuana than they actually can.
Edible marijuana products are often seen as a safer and more palatable way for marijuana novices to try the drug. Unfortunately, this means that inexperienced users are more likely to be exposed to products whose potency is very difficult to predict.