Colorado Working to Right-Size Marijuana Edibles

I am a fan of 100 calorie snack packs. Despite labels telling me how many cookies are in a serving, I’ve been known to eat more than one serving (sometimes) without realizing it. So these little packages make it easy for me to enjoy a treat but not overdo it.

Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division, with the input of a work group of industry, medical, law enforcement and advocacy representatives, is proposing emergency rules aimed at clearing up confusion among consumers around serving sizes for marijuana edibles. Sort of like creating 100 calorie snack packs.

Cookies, candies and other food products infused with active THC, marijuana’s main psychoactive ingredient, look familiar and are increasingly attractive to retail marijuana consumers. By law, a single edible product cannot contain more than 100 milligrams of THC per package and a single serving cannot be more than 10 milligrams.

But marijuana affects each person differently. As with snack foods, consumers may not understand serving sizes. And they might not stop at one serving. A college student died while visiting Denver after eating more than six single servings of edible marijuana cookies. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote about her distressing experience consuming an “innocent”-looking infused candy bar earlier this year.

These incidents are small in number, but have attracted media attention. The state legislature responded, passing bills this session that tighten marijuana packaging rules and require edibles to be marked with a standardized symbol. Colorado is continuing to tap into state experts and stakeholders to address these issues. A group began working this spring to address product potency and serving size. Another work group convened August 1 to develop recommendations for how to make edibles clearly identifiable as marijuana-infused and to not be mistaken for the versions found in grocery stores.

The Marijuana Enforcement Division’s task force announced a draft of the emergency rules at the end of July. Under the draft rules, products may still contain up to 100 milligrams of THC but individual servings of 10 milligrams must be scored and easily broken off. Products not easily divided must be sold in single-serve packages. Liquids must be in transparent bottles with serving lines on the side. Under the rules, it’s no longer up to retailers to package single-serving edibles; manufacturers will be required to put single-serving edibles in child-resistant packaging before shipping.

The emergency guidelines will go into effect on November 1 and become permanent following a longer public comment period. The rules were discussed at a public meeting and have not yet been formally released but were featured in Denver news outlets including The Denver Post at the end of July. The proposed rules continue Colorado’s efforts to regulate this new market and balance public health and safety with consumer demand for legal retail marijuana.

Now if only Voodoo Doughnut would come up with a 100 calorie doughnut. 

Update: Proposed rules were released on August 10 and can be viewed here.

Sara Schmitt is the director of community health policy at CHI.