Getting High With Willie Nelson Does Not Clarify Maureen Dowd's Understanding of Colorado's Marijuana Regulations


Fred R. Conrad / The New York Times

In her most recent New York Times column, Maureen Dowd brags about getting high with Willie Nelson, notes that "I'm the poster girl for bad pot trips" (literally), and once again misrepresents Colorado's rules for marijuana edibles:

Eager not to seem like a complete idiot, I burbled that, despite the assumption of many that I gobbled the whole candy bar, I had only taken a small bite off the end, and then when nothing seemed to be happening, another nibble. 

Nelson humored me as I also pointed out that the labels last winter did not feature the information that would have saved me from my night of dread.

Now, however, Colorado and Washington State have passed emergency rules to get better labeling and portion control on edibles, whose highs kick in more slowly and can be more intense than when the drug is smoked. 

Dowd visited Denver in January. Under the regulations in effect at the time, packages of edibles were limited to 100 milligrams of THC, which makes it unlikely that Dowd would have experienced the eight-hour hallucinatory hell she described in a column last June as a result of "a small bite" and a "nibble." Furthermore, every wrapper had to carry a warning that "the standardized serving size for this product includes no more than ten milligrams of active THC," which would be a tenth of a package containing the maximum allowable amount of THC. At that point potency testing was optional, but companies that tested their products were required to include "a potency profile expressed in milligrams and the number of THC servings within the Container." Manufacturers that did not test for potency had to include this warning: "The marijuana product contained within this package has not been tested for potency, consume with caution." Those rules are hard to reconcile with Dowd's claim that "the labels last winter did not feature the information that would have saved me from my night of dread."

Since May 1, a month before Dowd wrote the column about her bad trip, potency testing has been mandatory in Colorado, meaning that every package has to carry a label indicating total THC content and the number of 10-milligram servings. Yet Dowd claimed the state was at that point merely thinking about "moving toward demarcating a single-serving size of 10 milligrams." In truth, that has been the standard since legal recreational sales began on January 1.

Now Dowd says Colorado recently adopted rules "to get better labeling and portion control" on edibles. But the rules to which she refers, which were issued at the beginning of August, do not affect information about THC content or serving size. Instead they require that foods containing more than 10 milligrams of THC be marked "in a way that enables a reasonable person to intuitively determine how much of the product constitutes a single serving of active THC." The new rules also say that "each demarked standardized serving of marijuana must be easily separable." The upshot is to ban products, such as 100-milligram truffles, that contain more than 10 milligrams of THC but cannot be easily divided into standard servings.

There will be one new warning that is relevant to avoiding experiences like the one described by Dowd: "The intoxicating effects of this product may be delayed by two or more hours." Still, Dowd has consistently understated the requirements already imposed on the industry and the information already available to consumers while creating the impression that Colorado faces a marijuana-edible emergency that demands stricter regulation. In her June 3 column, she describes two "marijuana-related deaths" that are endlessly recycled by pot prohibitionists—one a homicide, the other a suicide/accident. In the column that ran yesterday, she says public education is needed to "prevent any more deaths," as if people are dropping dead left and right from marijuana overdoses, which is a biological impossibility in real-world conditions.

Public education should be based on accurate information about the potential hazards of edibles and the tools consumers can use to avoid them. Dowd seems intent on misrepresenting both.