Mar­i­juana candy given a new look to avoid con­fu­sion

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OBITUARIES - By Kris­ten Wy­att

DEN­VER >> Won­der­ing if that brownie con­tains pot? Colorado has you cov­ered.

A re­quire­ment that ed­i­ble mar­i­juana prod­ucts come with a di­a­mond-shaped stamp and the let­ters T-HC — not just on the pack­ag­ing but on the brown­ies, can­dies and other ed­i­bles them­selves — takes ef­fect Satur­day.

The rule ref­er­enc­ing mar­i­juana’s psy­choac­tive in­gre­di­ent was added af­ter com­plaints that the treats look too much their non-in­tox­i­cat­ing coun­ter­parts. It is the first such re­quire­ment in any legal weed state.

Colorado’s new “uni­ver­sal sym­bol” for foods that con­tain mar­i­juana is de­signed to give the treats a dis­tinct look even af­ter they’re out of the pack­ag­ing. In other words, a pot cookie being passed around a high school cafe­te­ria no longer will look so in­no­cent, giv­ing par­ents a way to iden­tify mar­i­juana ed­i­bles with­out smelling or tast­ing them.

The stamp­ing re­quire­ment comes in ad­di­tion to ex­haus­tive la­bel­ing and pack­ag­ing rules that in­clude child­proof zip­pers and lids, along with warn­ings that the prod­uct should be kept away from chil­dren and not eaten be­fore driv­ing or while preg­nant or nurs­ing.

“We want to en­sure that peo­ple gen­uinely know the dif­fer­ence be­tween a Duncan Hines brownie and a mar­i­juana brownie, just by look­ing at it,” said state Rep. Jonathan Singer, a Demo­crat who spon­sored the law re­quir­ing stamped ed­i­bles.

There are no num­bers in Colorado or any mar­i­juana state on how many chil­dren or adults ac­ci­den­tally eat pot. But a 2016 study trac­ing ad­mis­sions at Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal Colorado just out­side Den­ver found that more kids were treated for ac­ci­den­tal pot in­ges­tion af­ter le­gal­iza­tion, from 1.2 per 100,000 pop­u­la­tion two years prior to le­gal­iza­tion to 2.3 per 100,000 pop­u­la­tion two years af­ter le­gal­iza­tion.

Mar­i­juana in­ges­tions re­mained rel­a­tively rare, though, with the hospi­tal re­port­ing 81 chil­dren treated for ac­ci­den­tal pot in­ges­tion be­tween 2009 and 2015. Au­thors noted that “poor child su­per­vi­sion or prod­uct stor­age” was present in about a third of those cases.

Still, re­ported ac­ci­den­tal in­ges­tions caught law­mak­ers’ at­ten­tion. The law was passed more than a year ago but is just now tak­ing ef­fect be­cause of dif­fi­cul­ties im­ple­ment­ing it. None of the other legal weed states has con­sid­ered a uni­ver­sal sym­bol re­quire­ment for mar­i­juana prod­ucts them­selves, as op­posed to the pack­ag­ing.

Can­dies and baked goods may be sim­ple to stamp, but the la­bel re­quire­ment gets a lot trick­ier for bulk items such as granola, or mar­i­juana-in­fused so­das or pow­ders that can be dis­solved in wa­ter. The state ul­ti­mately settled on new pack­ag­ing rules for those im­pos­si­bleto-stamp items, re­quir­ing that so­das come in small sin­gle-serve bot­tles, for ex­am­ple.

Colorado also re­quires that ed­i­ble pack­ages con­tain the phrase, “Keep out of reach of chil­dren.”

At BlueKudu, which makes mar­i­juana-in­fused choco­lates, owners had to buy new molds for a line of candy bars that in­clude fla­vors like mint choco­late, tof­fee al­mond and cof­fee crunch.

Com­pany founder An­drew Schrot said that when he started his com­pany in 2011 for med­i­cal mar­i­juana cus­tomers, his pot treats looked like any other choco­late bars. But he said the switch to a recre­ational mar­ket in which new mar­i­juana users were try­ing his prod­ucts ne­ces­si­tated change.

“This is not your nor­mal choco­late bar. There’s some­thing dif­fer­ent about it. You can tell just from look­ing at it,” Schrot said.

Colorado’s mar­i­juana in­dus­try ini­tially was hes­i­tant about the change, point­ing out in reg­u­la­tory meet­ings that al­co­hol mak­ers aren’t re­quired to dye their drinks funny col­ors to make sure par­ents don’t let kids get ahold of the booze.

“Some of the in­dus­try ex­pec­ta­tion was, ‘Let’s keep it on the par­ents and the users in keep­ing it away from chil­dren or peo­ple who shouldn’t use it,’” Schrot said. “But you know, some­times mis­takes hap­pen. You turn your back and a prod­uct is left out.”

Colorado has no es­ti­mate of how many ac­ci­den­tal in­ges­tions might be avoided by the stamp­ing. Start­ing next year, the state also will ban any ed­i­ble mar­i­juana prod­ucts in the shape of a fruit, an­i­mal or hu­man — in ad­di­tion to ex­ist­ing bans on the use of car­toon char­ac­ters on pack­ages or other im­ages deemed at­trac­tive to kids.

“It’s re­ally a step in en­hanc­ing pub­lic safety and mak­ing sure that mar­i­juana is out of the hands of chil­dren,” said Ron Kam­merzell, head of en­force­ment for the state Mar­i­juana En­force­ment Divi­sion.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Candy bars wrapped in new pack­ag­ing to in­di­cate that the prod­ucts con­tain mar­i­juana are shown in the kitchen of BlueKudu candy in the his­toric Five Points District of Den­ver.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Candy bars marked with Colorado’s new re­quired di­a­mond­shaped stamp not­ing that the prod­uct con­tains mar­i­juana are shown in the kitchen of BlueKudu candy in the his­toric Five Points District of Den­ver. State of­fi­cials re­quire the stamp to be put di­rectly on ed­i­bles af­ter com­plaints that the treats look too much like their non-in­tox­i­cat­ing coun­ter­parts.

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