Marijuana

State Marijuana Officials Clarify Paper Warning Requirement for Concentrate Sales

Advertisements and accompanying education for marijuana concentrate sales will feature more health and crime warnings in 2022.
Advertisements and accompanying education for marijuana concentrate sales will feature more health and crime warnings in 2022. Jacqueline Collins
A four-page warning will not be required with every sale of retail marijuana concentrate in Colorado, as previously suggested by the state, but advertisements for such products will be getting more fine print.

The Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division's new commercial pot rules included a requirement that by January 1, 2022, all marijuana concentrate sales be accompanied by a printed educational resource concerning potential health and public-safety risks connected to extracted THC. When the 476 pages of updates were released in November, the MED didn't say whether the pamphlet had to be provided for all concentrate sales, or could simply be available to the customer.

The pamphlet and its required content were adopted as part of House Bill 1317, which created new restrictions for marijuana concentrates, including wax, shatter, bubble hash, kief, live resin, rosin vaporizer cartridges and all other combustible extracted THC products. Although the majority of the law's new restrictions only involve medical marijuana and MMJ patients, the educational resource rules for marijuana concentrate apply to both recreational and medical customers, and marijuana businesses will have to pay for the production of the pamphlets.

After the MED's regulatory updates were released in November, marijuana extractors worried not only about having to foot the bill, but also about the environmental impact of including a paper pamphlet with every sale of marijuana concentrate, a dispensary product category that grew by over 40 percent in sales from 2019 to 2020. The warning, intended for new users of marijuana concentrate, shouldn't apply to experienced consumers, industry representatives argued.

A December 9 MED memo to marijuana licensees offers some clarification of the pamphlet procedures. The educational requirement is intended to be met with "minimal disruption" for businesses, it says, and customers won't be forced to carry out a pamphlet with every purchase. The four-page pamphlet format has also been reduced to two sides, which can be reproduced on a single sheet of paper.

"The Division understands there may be circumstances in which a patient or consumer refuses or discards the resource. In such cases, the Division will consider evidence of reasonable efforts to comply with the requirement," the memo reads, noting that the MED will be looking to video surveillance, on-site inspections and licensee documentation as measures to ensure compliance.

Dispensaries can meet the educational resource requirement by handing patients or customers a copy of the pamphlet, attaching it to packaging, or providing a stack of the pamphlets at the point of sale and directing purchasers to the resource, according to the MED's memo.

The pamphlet includes a state-approved serving size suggestion for marijuana concentrates: a small dot on the packaging that is slightly smaller than a half-grain of rice. Information about the differences between vaporizing and smoking THC, the short- and long-term risks of consuming high-potency THC products, and the penalties for selling legal marijuana products on the black market are also on the pamphlet.

The health warnings, compiled by the state Department of Public Health and Environment, include "psychotic symptoms and/or psychotic disorder" problems associated with marijuana use, as well as "mental health symptoms/problems," "cannabis hyperemesis syndrome (CHS)" and "cannabis use disorder/dependence." Phone numbers to public-health hotlines and web addresses for informational resources will also be printed on the handout.

Marijuana concentrate advertising must include the CDPHE's four health warnings associated with overconsumption of extracted THC, as well.

The Colorado Cannabis Manufacturers Association, one of Colorado's largest trade groups for marijuana extractors, had worried that every concentrate sale would have to include the printed warnings, with executive director Kevin Gallagher predicting the pamphlets were "going to litter our parking lots." Although he declined to speak on the advertising requirements, Gallagher was pleased with clarification regarding the educational resource.

"It’s a valuable memo that aligns more with reality. Licensees should not be held liable if a patient or consumer refuses to accept the educational resource, especially when the majority of the content is not useful for most purchasers," he says.

The Marijuana Industry Group, a supporter of HB 1317, had also worried that every sale had to include a piece of paper.

"In the future, MIG hopes that lawmakers will recognize that major tweaks to any industry require tremendous expenditures of resources by regulators and businesses to come into compliance," MIG executive director Truman Bradley says in a statement. "At a time when local small-business owners and the industry as a whole are struggling, our hope is that lawmakers can be thoughtful about this in the years to come."

HB 1317 was proposed as an attempt to curb youth use of extracted marijuana products, according to bill sponsors, and the educational resource was just a small part of the new law's provisions. Starting in 2022, medical marijuana concentrate purchases will be further limited; prospective medical patients under the age of 21 will have to pass more application requirements; and all dispensary purchases made by medical patients must be entered into a new state tracking system.

New packaging rules for marijuana concentrate were also required by HB 1317, but the MED has until 2023 to craft them.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for westword.com.
Contact: Thomas Mitchell