DENVER – If a good compromise is when both parties are dissatisfied, then state marijuana regulators have nailed their latest proposal.
A public hearing Monday on rule-making by the Marijuana Enforcement Division focused on cannabis product labeling and potency equivalencies, with contention coming from both critics of the marijuana industry, and those who are entrenched in it.
For those who have been advocating for tougher marijuana rules to keep products out of the hands of children and curb accidental ingestion, state regulators are not going far enough. On the other side, marijuana industry stakeholders say the proposed rules would decimate businesses, especially those with products that are difficult to label.
The rules proposed by the Marijuana Enforcement Division had originally called for a stop-sign stamp on loose marijuana edibles, with the letters THC inside. But regulators backed off that proposal, instead calling for a diamond, still with the letters THC inside. A red diamond would appear on the package, and a black diamond would appear on loose edibles. Some in the industry worried that the stop-sign stamp sent too aggressive of a message.
But Smart Colorado, a group that advocates for stricter marijuana laws to protect children, urged regulators to stick with the stop-sign stamp.
“This red, ubiquitous symbol is easy to spot and identify, which is critical for parents and teachers watching out for children and teenagers,” said Gina Carbone, co-founder of Smart Colorado. “Young children are taught early on that a red stop sign means stop even if they can’t read the letters THC.”
Meanwhile, the makers of cannabis-infused products are immersed in their own fight. Stamping certain products is logistically impossible for some manufacturers, such as those who make cannabis gummies and candies.
And with the rule-making proposing limiting individual drinks and other liquids to 10 milligrams of THC – the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana – cannabis soda and juice makers who have stronger products would have to completely change their manufacturing and bottling.
Add into the mix a formula for determining the equivalency between potencies for edibles and concentrates compared to a marijuana flower. After scientific research, state regulators say 100 milligrams of THC in an edible is equivalent to an eighth-ounce of marijuana flower. For concentrates – like hash – an ounce of flower would equal 8 grams of concentrate.
Colorado residents are allowed to purchase only 1 ounce of marijuana at a time, and visitors may purchase a quarter-ounce. That means residents would be allowed to purchase up to 800 milligrams of THC at one time in edibles and tourists would be allowed to purchase up to 200 milligrams of THC per purchase. Because packages are currently limited to 100 milligrams total, residents could to purchase up to eight packages of edibles at a time, and tourists up to two packages at a time.
All of the rules would take effect in October 2016. Regulators are taking public comments on the proposals through Tuesday.
The rule-making came about after the Colorado Legislature charged marijuana regulators with addressing the labeling and equivalency issues after concerns were raised concerning children and accidental overdoses. But some wonder whether the current rule-making is overstepping the authority given by the Legislature. Lawsuits already are being discussed, assuming the rules are implemented.
Joe Hodas, spokesman for Dixie Elixirs, which makes cannabis-infused drinks, said the rule-making is actually a step backwards. He suggested that 10-milligram THC drinks would mean more smaller bottles in circulation. Rather than buying one drink, consumers might purchase several smaller ones at a time, which leaves more product in circulation.
“Some of the moms were making the statement that we want to know if our kids are bringing that stuff to school. Well, you just completely self-defeated yourselves there, because now they’ll have six of them to pour into a bottle if they want to,” Hodas said.
“It seems that what some of these changes are trying to solve for ... the goal is muddled,” he said. “The tactics trying to reach that muddled goal are not always well thought out, and there will be unintended side effects or consequences of those changes.”