Half the fun of eating weed is reveling in all of the different forms of edibles: for starters, there are the classics such as gummy bears, brownies, and chocolates. Sure, edibles can cause the occasional bad trip or at worst, a "I'm 100 percent sure I'm dying right now" 911 call, but a serious pot brownie high can also have lots of positive traits, from the recreational to the medicinal.
Well, that's for adults; for children, an accidental dose of marijuana-infused candies can mean a trip to the ER.
Ever since Colorado legalized weed in 2014, sales of edibles have skyrocketed, becoming a multi-million dollar industry in the state. But now, Colorado lawmakers are cracking down on pot food that looks like candy with a broad regulation that went into effect on Sunday. Kiss your ganja fruit snacks goodbye.
"Beginning October 1, edible marijuana-infused products in the shape of a human, animal or fruit are strictly prohibited, including shapes that resemble or contain characteristics of a realistic or fictional human, animal, or fruit, including artistic, caricature, or cartoon renderings," reads a statement from the Colorado Department of Revenue, the bureaucracy that oversees marijuana enforcement in the state.
The logic behind the policy, which covers a wide range of edibles, is to prevent accidental ingestion of THC by unsuspecting kids who could end up seriously stoned off even a single pot-laced gummy bear. "This is an important step in maximizing the State's public health and safety by keeping marijuana out of the hands of minors and raising consumer awareness," Colorado Department of Revenue executive director Mike Hartman told the Estes Park Trail-Gazette.
Alison Malsbury is an attorney at Harris Bricken and has written extensively on the topic as a member of their Canna Law Group. Malsbury says that the new Colorado regulation, as well as similar ones in Washington and California, deal with a legitimate concern. She calls the wording of the regulation "thorough" and "broad," and when asked if there is any foundation in reality for banning edibles in the shape of a human, animal, or fruit, she answered, "I think there somewhat is."
Malsbury argues that the motivation for these "shape bans" is often to appease those opposed to legalization in the first place. "Regulations that aim to keep cannabis products out of the hands of children are common, and they're popular with the public and individuals who are less supportive of legalization overall," Malsbury says, pointing to regulation in Washington and an assembly bill in California along the same lines as the Colorado bill. "A lot of it has to do with appealing with the constituency of legislators in more conservative districts."
But at the root of that is fear and liability, which, she says, can put undue stress on retailers. "I think that there's a lot of unnecessary fear that surrounds the idea of these products falling into the hands of children," adding that there are already very stringent packaging and labeling requirements in place for edible marijuana products.
Of course, that doesn't mean that the new rules don't address a very real problem. A recent pediatric study found a 34 percent increase in ER visits for Colorado children accidentally exposed to marijuana since it was legalized.
"A lot of these products look exactly like the products that children would consume," Malsbury added. "If we all agree that cannabis products should be kept out of the hands of children, I think it's at least somewhat logical to prohibit products that look exactly like candies or things that would be appealing to kids."
Malsbury does believe, however, that "a lot of these concerns could be addressed through packaging and labelling regulations rather than product-based regulations that prohibit companies from manufacturing." And speaking of labels, the new regulations will also force retailers to label the potency, concentrate, and type of marijuana in edibles "in a font size that is at least two font sizes larger than the surrounding label text and also not less than 10 point font, bold, and enclosed within an outlined shape such as a circle or square; or highlighted with a bright color such as yellow." In other words, if you can read, you will know that those gummy bears aren't just Haribo.
"My hope is that over time, regulations will relax and regulators will see that a lot of their fear was overblown and these products don't pose the threat that they thought they did," says Malsbury. "As the industry grows and as businesses become stronger at lobbying, there's a chance that things could lighten up a little bit."