Accidental ingestion of marijuana this Halloween is no treat for Coloradans — however much marijuana-infused candy looks and smells just like kids’ favorite snacks and candy. While marijuana industry advocates say that there is no real threat of accidental consumption, the data from hospitals and reports from Coloradans of all ages shows that anyone can be fooled by invisible marijuana in food products.
The New York Times, New Scrutiny on Sweets With Ascent of Marijuana in Colorado, October 29, 2014
By Jack Healy
DENVER — As Halloween approached, the Denver Police Department and a marijuana-store owner teamed up to film a public service video that could exist only in this weird new world of legalized pot.
Marijuana, they cautioned parents of trick-or-treaters, does not always look like marijuana. More and more these days, it can mimic Sour Patch Kids, Jolly Ranchers and gummy bears, and the police urged parents to double-check their children’s Halloween haul for any suspicious-looking candies that might be infused with marijuana.
“There’s really no way to tell the difference,” Patrick Johnson, the owner ofUrban Dispensary, says in the video. He added, “It’s best just to toss that stuff into the trash.”
To some marijuana advocates, the warning belongs with shadowy urban legends about poisoned chocolates and candy bars spiked with razor blades. There have not been any reported cases of marijuana-laced treats being passed out on Halloween here, and edible marijuana comes in drab packages that look nothing like regular candy. Still, the Halloween message underscored a growing concern among parents’ groups and regulators that the abundant new varieties of legal, edible marijuana just look too much like regular food.
Since recreational marijuana sales began here in January, edible pot has become a top seller at dispensaries across Colorado, a sweet and tasty way for wary first-timers to sample marijuana, or for people to get high without coughing and reeking of smoke. But a spate of accidental ingestions by children and adults, and two deaths tied to edibles this year, have prompted widespread calls to clamp down on the edible corner of the marijuana market.
While some companies are making mandarin-flavored sodas and rich dark-chocolate bars infused with the drug, advocates for tighter marijuana regulation say that others are simply coating brightly colored bulk candy and child-friendly breakfast cereals with cannabis oil and selling it at a huge markup. And critics argue that even seasoned marijuana consumers are getting sick or losing control after eating marijuana snacks that proved far more potent than they had realized. A single candy bar or soda could be packed with enough THC — the major psychoactive chemical in marijuana — to serve 10 people.
Under new rules approved by state regulators, some potent candies that once contained 100-milligram doses of THC are being pared back to 10 milligrams a serving, the amount that has been designated as a discrete dose. And starting next February, more edibles will come in childproof packages and will be wrapped up in plastic and foil sheets similar to those that encase prescription pills.
But some officials think the new rules do not go far enough.
This month, Colorado’s public health department went so far as torecommend a ban on almost all forms of edible marijuana, from brownies to cookies and chewy candies, saying their proliferation was confusing consumers and baiting children who could not tell the difference. The proposal has not gained much traction, but it showed the deep divisions between marijuana makers and public health officials who are now sparring over how to package edibles, whether they need clearer labels and markings, and exactly how strictly they should be regulated.