New rules proposed for Colorado marijuana edibles; medicinal labeling a sticking point

By Megan Schrader Updated: August 12, 2015 at 7:49 am • Published: August 11, 2015 0

DENVER - Under new rules proposed to curb the accidental ingestion of marijuana edibles, pot-infused products would have to be marked - even when out of their packages - with the letters THC inside a red stop sign symbol.

Whether it's a gummie, a brownie, a hard candy or a drink, the proposed rules released to the public on Tuesday would require the symbol on each serving size.

"I think it's just imperative that it be done," said Tom Raynes, executive director of the Colorado District Attorneys' Council. "I find it despicable that anyone not do it."

Raynes was one of 20 members of a "working group" that met Tuesday to hash out details of the labeling requirement created by lawmakers in 2014. This is the fifth time a group has met to try and create rules. The Department of Revenue, will issue rules for the process at a hearing scheduled for Aug. 31.

"This was debated heavily last year," said Barbara Brohl, executive director of the Department of Revenue. "We debated them at the legislature again this year ... We requested guidance from them and we received it."

That guidance came in the form of a letter signed by 85 of 100 legislators saying they were concerned about children accidentally eating items that are indistinguishable from popular cookies and candies. Brohl said the intent of House Bill 1366 was to eliminate the confusion of marijuana products with regular food items and to clearly distinguish pot products.

The rules propose that when it's not possible to mark the product - for example it's a liquid - that it be required to be sold in servings of 10 milligrams of THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Under state law that is a serving size, and no single product can contain more than 10 servings.

For members of the industry who were at the table, mostly manufacturers of marijuana infused products, the intent of the law is one they agree with and have been working hard to meet.

But implementation is problematic.

"It might be so excessive that it's our fear the regulated market is no longer affordable and it pushes people to the black market," said Julie Dooley, who owns Julie's Natural Edibles, a manufacturer of marijuana0infused products like gluten-free granola, granola bars and seed mix. The products are sold at retail and medical shops across the state.

Dooley described to the working group how their granola is put in single-serving containers that contain 10 milligrams of THC. Each of those small servings is labeled to clearly indicate it's a marijuana product.

She said the new rules will require them to change how the made-from-scratch products are molded and cut.

Dooley, who is a mother, said she intentionally chose products that wouldn't be inherently appealing to children like candy or cookies are. The packages now say things like "keep away from kids and pets."

"I'm so happy to change this to put the universal symbol on it," Dooley said. "I just ask for the courtesy of a little more time."

The new rules must be adopted by January 2016 under HB 1366, but the agency has wiggle room with the timeline for implementation.

Changes will be more difficult for marijuana-infused product manufacturers that don't make products from scratch because they will have to work with a manufacturer to alter the product to include the universal symbol.

The law clearly states that the new rules are intended to apply to recreational marijuana. But Brohl said that under her authority as executive director of the Department of Revenue, she will extend the labeling rules to Colorado's medicinal marijuana market.

That was opposed by several members of the industry, in part because medicinal marijuana users often consume far more than the 10 milligrams of THC. To have each 10-milligram serving marked would make medicinal marijuana too expensive, opponents said.

Raynes said that while he hopes to eventually see medicinal marijuana included in the required labeling, he didn't want to overstep the bounds of HB 1366.

"I want it. I believe it should be done, but I'm not willing to cross the statutory line to get it done," Raynes said. "That's the legislature's failure."

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Contact Megan Schrader: 286-0644

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