Marijuana Working Group Members Push Back at Official's Suggested Ban of Most Pot Edibles

The edibles working group at the October 20 meeting.
The edibles working group at the October 20 meeting.
Meeting photos by Amber Taufen

"We want the general public to be able to tell a marijuana cookie from a Chips Ahoy cookie just by looking at it."

That's the intent behind the edible work group currently hashing out recommendations for future edible packaging. And one recommendation submitted yesterday would solve that problem by eliminating pot cookies entirely from the landscape.

See also: Colorado Health Official Recommends Banning Almost All Pot Edibles

The Twitter graphic for Smart Colorado, which opposes greater access to marijuana.
The Twitter graphic for Smart Colorado, which opposes greater access to marijuana.

Eleven recommendations were submitted yesterday by members of the edibles work group regarding how to regulate recreational cannabis edibles in the future. By far the most extreme recommendation came from Jeff Lawrence of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, who suggested that Colorado completely ban all production of any retail cannabis products except for simple lozenges or hard candies -- and, oddly, tinctures, which "users can add to their products at home" to create their own (unpackaged, unmarked, unregulated) edibles.

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Nothing was resolved by the end of yesterday's meeting and at least one more is anticipated. However, several members immediately questioned the constitutionality of Lawrence's recommendation, noting that it contradicts Amendment 64.

"While this recommendation has not been discussed with other working group members, it is understandable and expected that industry representatives will be a dissenting voice," part of the document reads. "However their investment in the development of these products does not have to be lost. All edible products being produced could also be produced as a traditional food product (without marijuana) and marketed to the general public and not just in Colorado."

Gina Carbone of Smart Colorado
Gina Carbone of Smart Colorado

Although it seemed unlikely that work group members were seriously considering this recommendation, it came after hours of discussion about the intent of the edibles work-group bill and debate about whether another layer of edible identification is even necessary.

This ongoing argument isn't unprecedented. It's plagued the work group since its inception, to the point that one recommendation by Smart Colorado's Gina Carbone revolves almost entirely around defining "practicable" as "possible," including two citations of the Webster's definition of the word, presumably in order to preemptively table future discussion about what recommendations are and are not "practicable."

On the other end of the spectrum, work group member Bob Eschino, representing Incredibles, an edibles manufacturer, submitted a recommendation that the legislature wait to see whether the rules currently in place are working.

Continue for more of our report from the edibles working group meeting.  

Dr. Lalit Bajaj of Children's Hospital.
Dr. Lalit Bajaj of Children's Hospital.

That might seem like a sensible suggestion, but it's easier said than done. Dr. Lalit Bajaj, a work group member from Children's Hospital, was asked to provide context about the number and intensity of accidental edible ingestions by minors -- but the lack of hard data, particularly the numbers of edibles sold by volume and by milligrams, makes the context elusive. So does the stigma surrounding accidental ingestion by children, which leads to false reporting by parents who are afraid of repercussions.

Bajaj noted that increased data and information about infused products would be helpful to physicians in accidental ingestion situations, and one work group member suggested a cannabis-specific poison control phone number to help track data and triage patients.

As the group slogged through the details of the recommendations, including the imprinting of pills and candies, potential shape and color changes and more, the frustration in the room was palpable. Many of the suggestions made by food-industry work group experts weren't acceptable to the marijuana industry representatives, who stated that they often have difficulty establishing partnerships with other businesses -- and that many of the suggested recommendations would come with a hefty price tag or a compromise of vision.

"I find it frankly insulting that these options keep getting put in front of me like I haven't thought of them myself," said Julie Dooley, who bakes organic infused products and said she would have trouble fitting her cereals into molds without adding ingredients that don't meet her standards.

"I haven't heard anything from the industry about what would work," Carbone responded.

In that sense, the recommendation by the CDPHE's Lawrence could be construed as a warning: If the work group can't come to an amenable solution, then drastic measures might be taken to ensure the safety of Colorado's children.

There will be at least one more work group meeting to discuss the various recommendations and vote on which recommendations will make it to the Senate and House committees.


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