Each serving of recreational and medicinal marijuana that comes in an edible product could soon have its own warning label, thanks to the latest round of regulations under consideration by Colorado lawmakers.
The Legislature is considering ways to label edible products — sodas, candy, popcorn, granola bars — to bolster laws stipulating that each serving of 10 milligrams of THC, marijuana’s psychoactive compound, is clearly labeled. External packaging rules warning that the edibles are cannabis-infused remain in place.
The state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division conducted a stakeholder work group last week to discuss how to implement rules under HB14-1361 (marijuana equivalencies) and HB14-1366 (identifiable edibles). Both bills were signed into law during 2014.
The out-of-package labeling discussions come on the heels of stopgap rules adopted by regulators at the end of July. Those rules restrict how doses are delineated and how products are sealed to prevent underage consumption. In stakeholder discussions, the final proposal suggested edible products should be marked with a stop sign with the letters “THC” imprinted inside the symbol.
The safety measures are meant to address the unintentional consumption of cannabis edibles, especially by minors, as well as overconsumption, which has been linked to several deaths in Colorado since recreational marijuana became legal in November 2012.
According to Mike Elliott, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, labeling liquids and bulk products could pose a new set of problems for manufacturers.
“That’s where it gets complicated,” Elliott said. “How do you stamp a liquid? Implementing this bill will prove to be challenging for liquids or bulk items like popcorn. There’s been discussion about food coloring, but that’s also problematic. Some manufacturers promote their organic products, and food coloring may not be organic. Also, what color is available to be dedicated as the color of marijuana-infused foods? Gatorade, Powerade — they’ve made drinks out of every color. It’s been unclear about how the state will handle it.”
Elliott said he isn’t concerned that certain products such as infused liquids and bulk items like popcorn will be outlawed because of language within the house bill regarding edibles — the law says labeling should occur only when “practicable.”
The more things change
The constant updates and changes to marijuana regulations affect manufacturers’ bottom lines. Joe Hodas, chief marketing officer of Dixie Elixirs, a Denver-based marijuana edibles manufacturer, said compliance with the first wave of regulations, effective last February, has cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Implementing this bill will prove to be challenging for liquids or bulk items like popcorn.
– Mike Elliott
Hodas said the company had five months to create new bottles with a built-in cap that could measure doses while retaining carbonation to comply with the last regulations. The company now has to package its elixirs with 10mg of THC per container; before the new laws went into effect, those beverages could have significantly higher THC levels. The company also had to discontinue production of small brownies containing 100mg of THC because they weren’t scored by dose.
“One thing we’ve said publicly is we would like for there to be some amount of time for the [regulations implemented] previously to sink in,” Hodas said. “What’s working? I’d like to see more decisions grounded in data instead of making decisions that could reverse something that was working.”
Hodas added that changing regulations drive up the costs of legal products and could, in turn, fuel the black market.
Henny Lasley, co-founder of Smart Colorado, said her group “stands behind the importance of making sure someone can identify whether a product has marijuana in it outside of its packaging.”
Lasley said Smart Colorado’s focus is regulating products that may be attractive to children, but since it’s impossible to make that delineation, all edibles should be regulated. She said there have been reports of spikes in accidental marijuana ingestion coming from sources including the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, as well as Children’s Hospital Colorado. She said, however, that there is not a centralized organization gathering and disseminating that data, adding the CDPHE could take that lead in the future.
“They should be the repository,” Lasley said. “During the last legislative session, there was a data collection panel assembled to start working on this. The best thing that could come out of that is that we don’t have a problem.”
New laws regarding edibles will face a public hearing before final adoption. That hearing is scheduled from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Aug. 31 at the Old Supreme Court Chambers, Colorado State Capitol Building, 200 E. Colfax Ave., Room 220 in Denver. If necessary, the hearing will continue on the following day.
The new stipulations will need to be implemented by Jan. 1.