Red Stop Sign Stamp for Pot Edibles Out, Red Diamond In — But Is It Better?

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Earlier this month, we told you about a plan to stamp all marijuana edibles with a red stop sign emblazoned with the letters "THC" as a way of warning folks that the product was cannabis-infused.

The notion prompted outcries and eye-rolling from many pot consumers and members of the marijuana industry — as well as lots of Westword readers.

The latest version of the proposal, on view below in its entirety, replaces the stop sign with diamond-shaped warning stamps — but additional changes could be in the offing.

Debate about how to visually identify marijuana edibles has been going on for a long time. Back in September 2014, as we've reported, our Amber Taufen told you about the efforts of the marijuana working group charged with finding ways to implement House Bill 14-1366, signed into law in May of that year.

The bill requires the Department of Revenue to "adopt rules requiring edible retail marijuana products to be shaped,stamped, colored, or otherwise marked with a standard symbol indicating that it contains marijuana and is not for consumption by children" by January 1, 2016.

But the practicality of meeting these standards has proven to be troubling. At the time of Taufen's report, one proposal floated by Smart Colorado, a cannabis-criticizing group whose Diane Carlson is a member of the working group, called for all marijuana edibles be colored orange.

Here's how Taufen described the push-back on this notion:

Although it might seem easy on the surface to designate orange as a color that indicates cannabis infusion, for example, the operational implementation isn't nearly so simple. That solution could work for drinks or even baked goods, but when a working-group member raised the issue of whether color would work equally well for bulk infused goods, such as granola, the Smart representative at the table suggested that the granola-makers could add carrots to the recipe. Similarly, working-group cannabis industry members who emphasized their commitment to natural ingredients were told that it would probably be easy to find natural food dyes that would align both with the state guideline and the quality of their food product.

Practicality was also an issue when it came to the subject of a stamp on all edibles, as another except from Taufen's post points out:

Another possible solution — an obvious stamp of some sort that could be used to impress an image on hard candies and other products — was held up as a questionable example by the baked-goods representatives in the working group, who pointed out that stamping a brownie with an image isn't always feasible. The suggested solution to this problem was adding fondant to all baked goods; however, the Smart Colorado representative who suggested this solution noted she isn't a baker, and fondant frosting is often easier to remove from a baked good than buttercream frosting.

More recently, the stop sign notion gained traction. Here's a look at the suggested design:

Critics of the stop sign included members of the Denver Post editorial board.

In a piece published last weekend, the board members wrote, "The symbol should lose the stop sign. Edible marijuana is legal in Colorado, and a stop sign is akin to asking the industry to put a skull and cross bones on items."

There's no reference in the editorial to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, but perhaps there should have been.

In mid-2014, we reported that in a column headlined "Don't Harsh Our Mellow, Dude," Dowd had written about her negative experience with a marijuana edible in Colorado the previous January, shortly after legal recreational cannabis-product sales went into effect.

In "Mellow," Dowd noted that she "nibbled the end" of an infused candy bar, and when nothing happened, "nibbled some more." For an hour, she felt nothing. But then, something happened. She described it like so:

I felt a scary shudder go through my body and brain. I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours. I was thirsty but couldn't move to get water. Or even turn off the lights. I was panting and paranoid, sure that when the room-service waiter knocked and I didn't answer, he'd call the police and have me arrested for being unable to handle my candy.

I strained to remember where I was or even what I was wearing, touching my green corduroy jeans and staring at the exposed-brick wall. As my paranoia deepened, I became convinced that I had died and no one was telling me.

According to Dowd, the effects of the candy took all night to wear off. The next day, she was told novices like her should cut a bar like the one she sampled into sixteen separate pieces, "but that recommendation hadn't been on the label."

This observation led to mentions of labeling legislation "mandating that there be a stamp on edibles, possibly a marijuana leaf. (Or maybe a stoned skull and bones?)."

For our post, we illustrated the latter concept like so:

The new diamond-shaped stamps are considerably more neutral than Dowd's idea — but do they add up to the same thing?

We expect that will be among the arguments put forward when the proposal is shared with the public.

A hearing on the rules is scheduled to get underway at 9 a.m. on Monday, August 31, in the Old Supreme Court chambers at the Colorado State Capitol building.

In the meantime, here's the latest version of the proposal, dated August 26, 2015.

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