In a Monday interview about HB 1250, co-sponsoring Representative Cindy Acree said the bill would outlaw the medical marijuana edibles business. But between her Westword interview and yesterday's hearing, the focus switched from a total ban to marketing and labeling -- and according to MMJ attorney Warren Edson, law enforcement used as scare tactics one bogus product (Cap'n Chronic) and another (Pot Tarts) never sold in Colorado.
During the aforementioned interview, Acree complained about MMJ edibles that looked identical to unmedicated products. But when asked if legislation establishing rules for packaging and labeling might solve these problems without prohibiting the industry as a whole, she claimed otherwise.
"The constitution only obligates us to provide the product for patients who need it for medical purposes -- and this is far beyond that. This is a new product," she said. "This is still against federal law, and while the federal government has been very restrained in terms of stepping on the rights of states that allow this, it's still illegal. That sets people up for when it's dispensed improperly. We're not saying people have to smoke marijuana to get the medical benefits, and we're not trying to deny people access. We just have to consider the problems we're having in the marketplace with an industry that really has no basis in statute."
Apparently, she and her fellow sponsors changed their mind. Edson, who attended the hearing and participated in a public-comments segment, said the conversation centered around new language that reads:
...PROHIBITIONS AND LIMITATIONS ON MARKETING PRACTICES FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA-INFUSED PRODUCTS THAT ARE DESIGNED TO APPEAL TO OR ATTRACT MINORS OR HAVE THE EFFECT OF APPEALING TO OR ATTRACTING MINORS, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THOSE PRODUCTS THAT ARE CONFUSINGLY SIMILAR TO COMMERCIALLY PRODUCED FOOD AND BEVERAGE PRODUCTS.
To illustrate troubles the bill is meant to address, the Colorado Drug Investigators Association circulated a letter featuring photos of Cap'n Chronic and Pot Tarts, whose labels parody Cap'n Crunch cereal and Pot Tarts toaster pastries. But Edson says law enforcement didn't cite specific Colorado incidents when these items were spotted, and after a few minutes of web searching, he knows why.
"If you Google Cap'n Chronic, you'll see it's a T-shirt for sale at places like Spencer's Gifts," he says. "I'm not aware of there having been a real Cap'n Chronic product ever. And if you Google Pot Tarts, you find out that they were found during a March 2006 bust in California. So their example of harm being done in Colorado is a mythical product and one that was never in Colorado and was shut down five years ago. That was the best they could come up with."
In Edson's view, this absurdity was in keeping with the tone of the event, at which "it was clear a lot of the people on the committee didn't know anything about what they were discussing."
Example? "The Department of Revenue has been working on micro-rules about labeling and packaging for the last six months," he notes, "but there were people on the committee who didn't have any idea about that. The people making the rules didn't have any understanding of the rules that were already in place."
During his time before the committee, Edson argued that "copyright patent laws would take care of any kind of confusion" -- and as a result, "the market would take care of itself, which we've seen in California after some businesses received cease-and-desist orders on a variety of silly stuff they did out there."
This approach was countered by law enforcement representatives, who pointed to a number of Colorado-based incidents in which children were able to get their hands on marijuana-infused edibles. But in each of those cases, Edson maintains, "the issue seemed to be about parenting in terms of these edibles being left in areas where kids could get them," rather than confusing labeling.
In addition, folks from edibles-industry mainstays such as Twirling Hippy Confections noted that their products are already properly labeled, with the information giving patients an idea of the item's THC level -- another complaint voiced by Acree in her Westword interview. "There was testimony from one patient who uses edibles that she used to get them unlabeled, and she'd have to take a little nibble and set it aside until she could figure out how potent it was," Edson points out. "But then she found a center that uses labeling, and she doesn't have to do that anymore."
In the end, the committee "laid over" the bill "for three or four days, or maybe until their next meeting, a week after that," Edson says, presumably to give Acree more time to finalize the bill's language. That's frustrating, he adds, since "this was the only time the public will be able to comment on it," and the measure was in such flux that no one in the audience or on the committee seemed to be quite sure what it might ultimately do.
"It's amazing this thing could get as far as it did, based on a T-shirt and a friggin' five-year-old case," Edson says.
Page down to see photos of the proceedings courtesy of the Cannabis Therapy Institute:
More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana: Rob Corry sues Loveland on behalf of three dispensaries to block city ban."