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On Pot Edibles, Washington State Chews Over Colorado’s Early Stumbles

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DENVER (CBS4) - Washington State has adopted Colorado as its guinea pig for pot, as the Pacific Northwest state prepares to be the second state to welcome legalized recreational marijuana sales early next month.

Starting July 7, Washington will allow 20 retail outlets to open, the first of 334 the state plans to license eventually. Colorado’s successes and failures have given Washington much to chew on — especially how it treats marijuana edibles. Both states’ voters approved legal pot in 2012.

“We’ll make sure there are product warnings about health effect and the delay of the effects from the edibles,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, said at a news conference on Tuesday. “And we’re going to make sure all products are tested by labs that follow strict procedures so that, in fact, we can give consumers what they deserve, which are safe, well-regulated products.”

Colorado had a bumpy start, he suggested, so Washington will have stricter labeling rules. Washington is banning images on edibles that will appeal to children.

A pot brownie (credit: CBS4)

A pot brownie (credit: CBS4)

Colorado took steps toward differentiating pot edibles from run-of-the-mill candy when Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill in May that forces retailers to clearly mark their wares as drugs. In March, he signed legislation that requires pot shops to package edibles in child-resistant and opaque material.

“Reports out of Colorado suggest that consumers there may not have had all of the information they needed with untoward effects. That’s particularly true regarding edible products,” Inslee said, and he’s asked the state’s liquor control board, which oversees legal marijuana, to examine edibles for public safety.

“Our work is clearly not done,” he said.

According to The New York Times, the board planned to further consider rules governing the labeling of edibles this week, without public comment. Any rules would take effect immediately.

In Colorado, the Drug Policy Alliance, a pro-pot group, says it supports stringent labeling standards.

“In general, we agree that there should be strong packaging requirements. Testing should take place before edibles are sold,” Art Way, who is with the group, said.

Marijuana-infused ketchup (credit: CBS)

Marijuana-infused ketchup (credit: CBS)

For Colorado lawmakers, figuring out the actual dosage for pot food is central to preventing accidents and deaths that have been linked to pot consumption.

Two high-profile incidents in Denver have flared attention over edibles. On March 11, college student Levy Thamba Pongi, 19, jumped to his death after eating more than six times the recommended amount of a marijuana cookie, the coroner’s office said. On April 14, a Denver man shot his wife while she was on the phone with 911, police say, after he consumed marijuana-laced candy.

To prevent more deaths, a state lawmaker said the focus is “to make sure a single-serving size really looks like and is a single-serving size,” Rep. Johnathan Singer, a Democrat from Boulder County, told CBS4. “So you don’t have five- and six- and seven-dose cookies that people would normally eat in one bite.”

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