GOLDEN, Colo. (AP/CBS4) – A Colorado task force searching for a way to comply with a new law requiring edible marijuana to have a distinct look made no progress on Monday after four meetings of debate.
A group of regulators, law enforcement, parent groups and edible-pot makers wrapped up a final task force meeting with no consensus or votes on what marijuana-infused foods and drinks should look like.
“There’s going to be inflamed passions on both sides. Edibles is a serious risk. If it’s not clearly marked, and people don’t understand what it is, you’re going to get little kids having them,” Gov. John Hickenlooper told CBS4.
The members have mostly argued about whether it would be possible to make sure the wide variety of pot-infused products don’t look like regular foods. Instead, marijuana regulators decided to send lawmakers several proposals.
“We’ll be sending lawmakers a variety of options,” said Barbara Brohl, head of the Department of Revenue, which regulates the new pot industry.
That variety is wide.
The state Health Department called for new markings to go on marijuana products, with a future commission to be set up to pre-approve items what kinds of foods can be made with marijuana.
“We are concerned that the products look enticing to children,” said Jeff Lawrence, the agency’s representative on the workgroup.
Some policy makers say edible pot products that can’t be easily marked, such as granola or liquids, should simply be banned.
“We always need to keep public safety and public health as the top priority,” said Mario Vasquez, police chief in Erie and the representative from the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police.
“The voters were never told about marijuana cupcakes and gummie bears. This has been nothing more than deceiving the voters,” said Bob Doyle of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an anti-marijuana legalization group.
But through four long and contentious meetings, the marijuana-industry representatives called those suggestions unworkable and illegal. The voter-approved constitutional amendment legalizing pot makes it legal in all forms, making it doubtful whether a ban on certain kinds of pot candy would be vulnerable to legal challenge.
“At some point the consumer has to take responsibility,” said Bob Eschino, head of Medically Correct, which makes the popular Incredibles line of marijuana-infused candies.
The industry got some support from an unexpected corner – the medical community. A representative from Children’s Hospital Colorado, Dr. Lilit Bajaj, worries that edible-pot markings could have the opposite effect intended.
“The unintended consequences of marking things could make them more attractive and not less attractive to adolescents,” Bajaj said.
But the author of the edible-pot law, Rep. Jonathan Singer, insisted that marijuana edibles should have an unmistakable look.
“I want to know the difference between a marijuana cookie and a Chips Ahoy just by looking at it,” said Singer, D-Longmont.
The ultimate decision will be made by next year’s state Legislature. The law says recreational edible marijuana on store shelves must have a distinct look by 2016.
“What’s going to happen now is there’s going to be an opportunity for the Marijuana Enforcement Division to come back … put these recommendations together, and the come out with an ultimate recommendation, in all likelihood with a minority report, bring it back to the state Capitol lawmakers to give their input so we can make the best rules possible by 2016,” said Singer.
Also Wednesday, the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center released a one-page summary on cases of accidental pot ingestions.
The agency reported that calls about children ingesting marijuana have gone up in recent years. The Center got 26 marijuana-related calls last year, up from seven calls in 2001. Over the 12-year period, 79 percent of the exposures were in the child’s house and 23 percent were admitted to a health care facility. There were no deaths.
Marijuana producers have pressed for details on how many of those cases came from store-bought pot, and how many came from homemade items such as pot brownies. Authorities don’t keep that data, prompting industry representatives to argue that requiring retail edibles to have a distinct look may not reduce marijuana accidents.
“The most basic data of the scope of the problem is not available right now,” said Ian Barringer, owner of Rm3 Labs, which tests commercial marijuana products before they can be sold.
In Washington, the other state with legalized marijuana, the government must approve an edible before it can be sold on the market.
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