DENVER – Tensions between marijuana-industry stakeholders and those attempting to protect children from accidental ingestion continued Monday during the last gathering of a workgroup, resulting in little progress.
The Edibles Work Group heard six proposals which aim to limit accidental ingestions by making marijuana-infused products readily identifiable. A law passed by the Legislature last session required that rules be adopted by January 2016.
But the workgroup did not actually identify a standard symbol, nor did it even find consensus on whether some sort of imprint is necessary.
Now, lawmakers will receive a report from the workgroup’s four meetings that will include conflicting recommendations from the 23-member panel, leaving it up to the Legislature to navigate the maze of ideas without much guidance or agreement.
“Everybody would have liked something a little more black and white, but I would rather get something right than something specific,” said Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, who sponsored the legislation creating the workgroup.
Lawmakers began debating how to identify marijuana edibles after a string of incidents, one of which included a Denver man who allegedly shot and killed his wife in April under the influence of both cannabis edibles and prescription pain medication. Another incident involved a college student visiting Denver in April who jumped to his death from a hotel balcony after eating marijuana cookies.
The workgroup learned at a previous meeting last month that there has not been a spike in accidental overdoses since the concerns were raised. Some parents also worried that marijuana products would end up in children’s Halloween candy, but there were no reports of that either.
Industry-friendly proposals brought by the workgroup lean more toward relying on data and education to curb the perceived problems. Marijuana stakeholders say new child-safe packaging requirements should be allowed to work first.
Those who want tougher standards pushed proposals that would require imprinting and limiting certain edibles that can’t be marked. Banning those products, however, likely would conflict with the 2012 constitutional amendment that legalized recreational marijuana.
A proposal by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recommends a product advisory commission that would grant premarket approval for all edible products in an effort to limit marijuana products that appeal to kids.
Edible manufacturers worry that a requirement to imprint all individual products – even loose edibles like gummi candy, as well as tinctures and beverages – would so greatly limit what they manufacture that they would essentially go out of business or ban the products altogether.
“Labeling, child-safe packaging, education – we all can do that, and we can all be vigorous about that,” said Bob Eschino, owner and president of the infused-edible company, incredibles. “But stamping, marking, shaping the product is virtually impossible.”
The industry’s resistance to imprint individual products has put them at odds with Smart Colorado, an organization dedicated to protecting children from perceived dangers of marijuana.
Several of the organization’s allies offered public comment today, pleading with the workgroup to recommend simply banning edibles. They wore red stickers in the shape of a stop sign to show solidarity.
Gina Carbone, a leader with Smart Colorado, found herself in some tense exchanges with various industry representatives on the 23-member workgroup.
“It’s not a question of do we want to, (lawmakers) are asking for your input as an industry on recommendations on how,” Carbone said. “High-schoolers will tell you that products are coming into their schools, and kids have accidentally ingested them.”
Carbone also found herself in heated exchanges with Dr. Lalit Bajaj, a doctor at Children’s Hospital Colorado, who onlookers assumed would have been an ally of the group. But Bajaj worried about backfire from requiring a standard imprint.
“The unintended consequences of actually marking things is that it becomes more attractive, not less attractive, to the adolescent population,” Bajaj said. “There’s a reason that Joe Camel was a problem.”