Marijuana

Mommy's Pot Cookie Is Yummy

The latest regulatory response to a problem that is ultimately a matter of parental responsibility

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Remember Mr. Yuk? The disgusted, neon-green version of the classic yellow smiley face was developed back in the early 1970s by Pittsburgh pediatrician Richard Moriarty, who was looking for a symbol that would repel little kids from poison more effectively than the traditional skull and crossbones. Although the Mr. Yuk symbol was never validated by studies showing that it had the desired effect and some research suggested it did not, the warning label was adopted by poison control centers throughout the country.

Many of them eventually had second thoughts. Mr. Yuk was "a good concept and very popular tool," says the Northern New England Poison Center, but "studies showed that Mr. Yuk wasn't effective." In fact, "some kids may have been attracted to the sticker." The Illinois Poison Center offers a similar explanation for its decision to stop distributing Mr. Yuk stickers: "Available research…demonstrated that the Mr. Yuk® sticker is not a strong method to warn children away from possible poisons. Instead of acting as a deterrent and discouraging children from touching a potentially poisonous item, research has found that children often were attracted to the stickers featuring a bright green, frowning face."

Washington's Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) nevertheless turned to Mr. Yuk for help in discouraging children from consuming marijuana edibles—until objections from the industry and prevention specialists persuaded it to go a different way. The Washington Poison Center (WPC) recently unveiled an alternative label that is expected to start appearing on packages of marijuana products by next April: an upraised red hand next to the warning "Not for Kids."

While that message seems more fitting for a product that is not in fact poisonous, the new label is not scientifically validated either and should not be expected to solve the problem of unintentional marijuana ingestion by children. The red hand is the latest in a series of regulatory responses to a problem that is ultimately a matter of parental responsibility.

Last year the WPC received 272 calls regarding marijuana exposures, up from 246 in 2014, the year that state-licensed marijuana stores first opened, and 158 in 2013, when possession was legal but cultivation and sales for recreational use were not. The Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center has recorded a similar increase since marijuana was legalized in Colorado.

Marijuana-related cases still represent a tiny percentage of the calls received by the poison centers, and the upward trends may be partly due to changes in reporting behavior. Consumers and bystanders (including parents) are probably less reluctant to call poison control centers about marijuana exposures now that the drug is legal. Still, the increases in calls are plausibly related to easier availability of marijuana products.

Most of the marijuana calls the WPC received in 2015 involved adults, and nearly a quarter involved teenagers. But there were eight cases involving 6-to-12-year-olds and 52 involving kids 5 or younger—an age group where a warning symbol might have an impact by alerting nonreaders to the nature of the product.

The LCB initially thought Mr. Yuk, which the WPC still uses, should be that symbol. But after the board floated the idea last January, "there was quite an uproar from individuals in the cannabis community and some in the prevention community," says Alexander Garrard, the WPC's clinical managing director. Marijuana merchants pointed out that their products, unlike the items to which Mr. Yuk has traditionally adhered, are intended for internal consumption.

"Many in the cannabis industry felt that Mr. Yuk symbolized poisons, and they did not want their marijuana edibles labeled as such or have it even insinuated that marijuana was a poison," Garrard says. "They also felt, like some in the prevention industry, that using Mr. Yuk on an edible that adults would use might confuse young kids who are taught not to eat anything with the label on it." When the LCB "heard from the Washington Poison Center that they were developing a warning symbol of their own," LCB spokesman Brian Smith says, "the board withdrew Mr. Yuk to give the Washington Poison Center time to create and vet its image."

There was a similar uproar in Colorado when marijuana regulators considered requiring a red stop-sign symbol emblazoned with the letters THC on packages of edibles. The final regulations, which take effect on October 1, require a less judgmental diamond instead of the alarming octagon. Either way, it's doubtful that the average toddler or preschooler will know what THC signifies, which suggests that the symbol is aimed more at adults who might otherwise overlook less conspicuous indications that a product contains marijuana—such as the label that says, "This product contains marijuana." The diamond symbol is also supposed to be stamped or imprinted, when feasible, on the product itself, so it will look different from nonpsychoactive foods even when it has been removed from its package.

Smith says the purpose of Washington's new warning symbol "is to alert kids that the product is for adults only." Garrard agrees that the red hand "serves as a visual sign to young kids to stay away from the product." He notes that the new label "also provides the national toll-free number to the poison control centers in the country should an adult, teenager, or someone else need to call for medical help." But he concedes "there is no evidence to suggest that a label will reduce the number of calls to the poison center," which is usually viewed as a measure of problematic encounters with marijuana.

"Call volume is not [necessarily] indicative of whether or not poisonings are increasing or decreasing," Garrard cautions. "An increase in calls might just indicate that more people are knowledgeable about the service now and are calling. We are therefore capturing more of what was already there. Likewise, a decrease in calls doesn't necessarily suggest that poisonings are going down. It could be due to lack of public education and visibility of the service, people afraid to call, [or] an actual decrease in poisonings."

While the "Not for Kids" label makes adults feel better, we may never know whether it actually reduces accidental ingestion of marijuana. In that respect it is reminiscent of a new Colorado law that aims to address this problem by banning edibles shaped like animals, people, or fruit. All other shapes—hearts, moons, stars, flowers, marijuana leaves, etc.—are still permitted. Such laws mainly serve to eliminate products that make legislators uncomfortable.

THC-infused gummy bears are scary, whether or not they actually increase underage cannabis consumption, and warning labels are reassuring, whether or not they actually reduce it. Marijuana edibles in Colorado and Washington already are sold in child-resistant packaging. They already bear labels that say they contain marijuana and urge consumers to keep them away from children—a precaution that would eliminate accidental ingestion by toddlers and preschoolers if consistently followed. It seems unlikely that yet another warning will have a noticeable impact.

But who knows? Regarding the Mr. Yuk symbol, Garrard says "the data are not entirely conclusive that it's ineffective or effective," and "the reality is that no single warning label is going to prevent childhood poisoning completely." He says the WPC still uses Mr. Yuk "to talk to kids and youth about harm reduction and dangerous household chemicals."

Mr. Yuk's durability may be largely a result of the improbable nostalgia he inspires. "The Washington Poison Center has used Mr. Yuk as part of its education program since the logo came out," Garrard says, "and many people in Washington state have fond memories of the education campaign. It's not uncommon to hear, 'I grew up with Mr. Yuk! That's how I know about the poison center.'"

This article originally appeared at Forbes.com.

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  1. It is good to read about the Mommy’s Pot Cookie Is Yummy.

    I love my mummy cookies. It make me so happy.

    Great post and very well posted.

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  2. “Not for Kids.”

    Because what kind of strange, mutant kid would want to disobey an order, and use something he’s not allowed to until he is older?

  3. Human Nature 101: The best way to persuade someone to do something is to tell them they may not. Humans are not unlike cats, very curious. Someone tells us we should not do something, we want to do it to find out why we shouldn’t do it. All that to say, these warning labels are not going to be effective.

    1. http://tinyurl.com/hba757q

      Human nature summed up in one picture.

      1. That same artitude reminds me of the Benny Hill sketch where this hot woman comes to the beach wearing a tank-top and a skirt and sits down in a chair to catch the sun, and then here come the perverts getting in position to catch a glimpse of her knickers, to the point where the girl gets annoyed, gets up, goes into a cabana and changes to a tiny bikini. The guys get disinterested immediately until the next girl in a skirt walks by.

        We are attracted to the forbidden fruit. It is in our nature.

        1. We need to prohibit the pepples from voting libertarian!!!!

    2. ^ This.

      “I don’t care what all the other kids say; mommy’s pot cookie is good for you.

      Kids: “Yuck. Ewwww. No way, dude!”

  4. A red hand? So Ulster loyalism will keep kids away from edibles?

  5. As a child I went around the house and put Mr. Yuk on all the dark chocolate I could find. Of course, there wasn’t much, as my family knew I would burn the place to the ground before I would share living space with dark chocolate.

    1. I’m sorry to hear about your aversion to things that taste good. Maybe you and UCS can form a support group.

    2. Ah, man… I got desperate and ate some baking chocolate once. That’s when I knew God hated me.

    3. You are worse than Hitler, with your adulterated chocolate flavored confections.

  6. “Mommy’s Pot Cookie Is Yummy” sounds like a line from a SugarFree story. [shudder]

    1. I think I saw that on xHamster the other day.

    2. How about a sticker that says “This food tastes like your mother’s vagina.”?

  7. http://m.imdb.com/title/tt0173592/

    So many new possibilities. Bring it back!

  8. “Call volume is not [necessarily] indicative of whether or not poisonings are increasing or decreasing,” Garrard cautions. “An increase in calls might just indicate that more people are knowledgeable about the service now and are calling. We are therefore capturing more of what was already there. Likewise, a decrease in calls doesn’t necessarily suggest that poisonings are going down. It could be due to lack of public education and visibility of the service, people afraid to call, [or] an actual decrease in poisonings.”

    So what your sayin’ is, you guys don’t have a clue and the only way you’d ever get a clue would be if it calls you on the phone and tells you to come and get it?

    1. … you’re being contemptuous because someone is giving appropriate context for their data and acknowledging ambiguity?

      1. Fair enough, he’s a spokesperson, not a (data) scientist. But given that he pretty directly says that context and ambiguity could counter and/or completely obviate the data. Lots of words to say, “We don’t know.” or “We aren’t sure.”

        Like he gets paid to talk or something.

      2. Actually, the precise sort of noise you would expect to collect from a poison control center program targeting compounds that aren’t exactly poisonous.

  9. If you are concerned about your kids eating your weed food, put it in something that locks and don’t try to hide the key somewhere clever because kids always find it.

    1. Nah, the problem is never that you would leave something out where the kids might get it. Like with your guns, violent video games, TV, rated-R movies, unfiltered internet and so-on, you’re always super careful with what your kids see/do/eat/etc. while at your house.

      No, the concern is what your neighbors do. They might not be as careful and perfect as you, ya know?

  10. “I learned it from having the munchies with you, DAD!”

    1. That like the time my mother had a cigarette hanging out of her mouth and catch me with a pack and asked where I learned that.

      1. Unlike Ralphie, when my mother asked where I had learned “that word,” I said, truthfully, “Dad.”

        1. I just looked at my father’s day card and it showed a man hitting himself with a hammer, yelling at a football game and falling off a ladder, each time saying “*&^%”. The inside said “thanks for teaching me the important things, dad.”

          1. Weird thing is, you don’t have kids. No idea where that card came from.

  11. Just wait until states abdicate their authority over pot to the FDA. Once that happens, you can bet that there will be NO edibles that might appeal to kids, but you will be free to chose between liver and Brussel sprout flavors.

    1. As long as the sprouts are cooked with bacon, I am ok with that.

    2. Mmmmm. Liver. Why the hell don’t people like liver?

      1. Because it tastes like ass?

        Seriously, I think its hard to cook well. Its the texture, as much as anything, but its prone to a pretty funky taste, too.

        1. Tastes irony (like iron) to me

    3. Fortunately, they aren’t hard to make yourself.

  12. Mommy’s Pot Cookie

    We’re this close to leaving euphemism behind altogether.

  13. I reread the article’s description wrong. I thought it said Reason’s pot cookie recipe.

    Great article nonetheless.

  14. Nobody else has mentioned the fact that people are calling a poison center over pot edibles? You don’t want your kids eating them because you don’t want them developing a habit or because it’s your pot and it’s expensive, fine. Just don’t be an ignorant fuckwit and assume that your kid scarfing a pan of brownies is the same as drinking the bottle of drain cleaner under the sink.

    For the record, I’ve never used weed and don’t advocate for drugging children. I’m at least educated enough to know what an LD50 is and that THC is a total non-factor. I am aware of no documented cases where someone has died from a weed overdose.

  15. RE: Mommy’s Pot Cookie Is Yummy
    The latest regulatory response to a problem that is ultimately a matter of parental responsibility

    Parental responsibility is the role of The State.
    Parents are only there to populate the country as worker bees for our obvious betters.
    This way, The State will function in a much more productive entity for our socialist slavers in charge.
    Life will be so good for them.


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