Why Colorado's Health Department Recommended a Ban on Marijuana Edibles, Then Immediately Abandoned the Idea


Jacob Sullum

Yesterday, after news outlets reported that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) had recommended a ban on all but a few forms of marijuana edibles, CDPHE officials quickly retreated from the idea. "If the horse wasn't already out of the barn," said the department's deputy executive director, "I think that would be a nice proposal for us to put on the table." But why exactly was the horse out of the barn?

As you might expect, the recommendation drew strong objections from Colorado's marijuana industry. But it also was criticized by Gov. John Hickenlooper, no fan of legalization, whose marijuana policy coordinator, Andrew Freedman, made a couple of cogent points in a written statement:

Other experts will no doubt argue that restricting edibles betrays the will of the people in passing Amendment 64. Still others will argue that restrictions have the potential to create a dangerous and unregulated black market for edibles.

Amendment 64, the 2012 initiative that legalized marijuana for recreational use in Colorado, is now part of the state constitution, and it clearly envisions a market in which various marijuana-infused foods and beverages are available to adult consumers. It allows state-licensed businesses to make and sell "marijuana products," defined as concentrates and "products that are comprised of marijuana and other ingredients and are intended for use or consumption, such as, but not limited to, edible products, ointments, and tinctures." The amendment also refers to "food" and "drink" that contain marijuana. Furthermore, voters' intent should be understood in the context of Colorado's experience with medical marijuana, which for years had included a wide variety of edibles sold to patients by state-legal dispensaries. "When Amendment 64 came up," notes state Rep. Jonathan Singer (D-Longmont), "we talked about legalizing marijuana, including edibles."

The CDPHE, by contrast, had recommended allowing only tinctures and hard candies or lozenges. "To allow the production of retail marijuana edibles that are naturally attractive to children is counter to the Amendment 64 requirement to prevent the marketing of marijuana products to children," it argued. "The intent of the Amendment and subsequent laws and rules was to decriminalize the use of retail marijuana, not to encourage market expansion within the marijuana edibles industry that subsequently create potential consumer confusion or mixed messages to children….By limiting the scope of allowable retail marijuana edibles to products that are not easily confused with ubiquitous food products, this recommendation creates a more defensible and transparent regulatory framework."

The CDPHE's suggestions are part of the consultation process in which the Colorado Department of Revenue's Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) is engaging prior to issuing new edible regulations next year. State legislators have charged the MED with writing "rules requiring that edible retail marijuana products be clearly identifiable, when practicable, with a standard symbol indicating that [the product] contains marijuana and is not for consumption by children." Hence the CDPHE's preference for hard candies and lozenges, which could be stamped in a way that would make them look different from unspiked versions of the same products even when they are removed from their original packaging.

Other ideas that have been floated include dyeing marijuana products a distinctive color and imprinting a symbol on the icing of baked goods. But the legislative mandate does not specifically require that the products themselves be marked (although an earlier version of the bill imagined recommendations for how "edible retail marijuana products can be shaped, stamped, colored or otherwise marked to indicate that [they contain] marijuana"). Furthermore, the new regulations are contingent on what is "practicable," and the requirements that legislators or regulators can impose on marijuana products are in any case limited by Amendment 64. Rep. Singer, co-author of the law under which the MED is developing its regulations, today told The Huffington Post that the CDPHE "took it one step too far."

The governor's other point is also worth highlighting: Despite their drawbacks, edibles have proven very popular in Colorado. If the state decided to ban almost all of them, the black market surely would step in to meet the demand, meaning that no regulations at all would apply.

KUSA, the NBC station in Denver, noted that the ban proposal "comes just days after Denver Police warned parents that trick-or-treaters should be careful about their children eating pot candy given out by strangers." More on that trumped-up threat here.

NEXT: Does Being 'Banned' Help Book Sales?

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  1. If I recall correctly, didn’t anti-tobacco/cigarette folks have some degree of success with this argument?

    That is, they specifically argued that certain types of cigarettes were “obviously” being marketed to children because they had flavors/branding that seemed fun (instead of boring and deadly).

    1. They did home in on Joe Camel as appealing to kids.

      1. Especially his penis/scrotum face.

    2. Anything that appeals to unrefined tastes is obviously marketed to children. Or something.

  2. rules requiring that edible retail marijuana products be clearly identifiable, when practicable, with a standard symbol indicating that [the product] contains marijuana and is not for consumption by children.

    I thought that someone selling Marijuana products would put that prominently on their own (often with the distinctive and already reocgnizable leaf shape of the plant), because that is their primary selling point. Making it manditory is redunant. No one in the legit pot business is trying to stealthily sell these as if they were anything but. That’s throwing away the mark-up and main marketing element of the product.

    1. You mean, if people can get a dime for unmarked candy, and $10 for marked candy, they might just mark the candy without being told to do so?

      1. Why, yes, I might just be saying exactly that.

  3. These people are the worst. Sanctimonious, megalomaniacal and spineless. If you really think edibles are that bad, at least have the balls to stand behind your position instead of retreating as soon as your position becomes public and you realize that even other statist nannies think you’re crossing the line. Everyone who signed off on this should’ve already been fired, and Hickenlooper with them.

  4. I can think of two reasons that weren’t mentioned as to why edibles shouldn’t be banned.

    1) Smoking is bad for you.

    I can’t believe we have to point that out to government health officials.

    2) People with digestive problems like UC and Crohn’s are likely to get better results if the cannabis actually gets to where the problem is.…..MC2516444/

    From that link, am I to understand that we have cannabinoid receptors in our intestines? Some people, no doubt, think Jesus put them there to tempt us, but I suspect that if we evolved them there, then through the intestines is probably a pretty good way to go.

    1. I don’t think it’s a matter of receptors per-se, it’s more of a “it can be absorbed there” along with nutrients. Because the first tiddues to see it have an undiluted effect, those with gastro-intestinal tract ailments will have better results from that method of absorbtion.

    2. It’s also idiotic because children aren’t allowed in the pot stores anyway. So the only way they could get a hold of one is if someone in their house bought something and left it lying around. Allowing lozenges, etc. isn’t going to change that.

      1. If an adult buys pot brownies that aren’t clearly marked, then gives them to a minor, he or she could claim ignorance of the marijuana content as a defense.

        And we all know that ignorance of the law is no excuse (except for those who make and enforce the laws).

      2. In all seriousness, I have no doubt that whatever rules are adopted will result in having to clearly label all products to make sure that the legal purchasers are properly informed about the products, and therefore don’t inadvertently leave them lying about for small children.

        Some sort of tamper-proof packaging is probably in order.

        1. *child-proof. If it were tamper-proof, the stoners wouldn’t be able to get into it.

        2. Is booze required to come in childproof bottles?

          1. Of course not. Booze is legal-legal. Marijuana is not.

            1. Alcohol is insanely regulated, so “legal-legal” may be going a bit far. Probably the only “legal-legal” product is…birth control? For political reasons.

              I wouldn’t even call soda “legal-legal” at this point.

            1. That’s the warning being sent to hundreds of schools and police agencies around the state, asking them to watch for kids getting drunk by eating Gummi bears soaked in vodka.

              I’m sure Gummi bears readily absorb vodka. Dear god.

        3. We especially have to label edibles which contain genetically modified pot.

        4. Also, it the label should be large enough that a cop within 40 meters can spot it in (or anywhere near) your vehicle, thus giving him probable cause to arrest the you for drugged driving.

  5. the requirements that legislators or regulators can impose on marijuana products are in any case limited by Amendment 64.

    Oh, you mean like all the other restrictions imposed on pot that go beyond what is imposed on alcohol? Those have all been struck down?

    No? Then I think that Amendment 64 doesn’t impose any limits, IRL, on what the Nanny Fascists do with pot.

  6. You’d gotten here sooner, you might have beaten the label that came up sayin’ “Contains marijuana, not suitable for children.”

    — Didn’t I.D. us. Doesn’t lead to you.

    Naw, it doesn’t. But a government stamp on every molecule of the brownies just maybe might.

    1. Colorado never stops spinning.

  7. “If the horse wasn’t already out of the barn,” said the department’s deputy executive director, “I think that would be a nice proposal for us to put on the table.” But why exactly was the horse out of the barn?

    Translation: We don’t like to discuss legislation before we drop it on the public.

  8. Well, they could require that the edibles be impregnated with Strontium-90, then have the cops walk the school hallways with Geiger counters to find offenders.

    1. You could call it Nuka-indica.

  9. Edibles don’t have any drawbacks. They just have improper use.

    1. And they have the unfortunate ability to take the blame for Maureen Dowd being a worthless fucking twit.

    2. Not true — their main drawback is being illegal in most places.

    3. If you liquefy them in a blender and give yourself an enema with them you’ll discover the drawbacks right quick.

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