Colorado Marijuana Businesses Respond to Concern Over Edibles and Kids

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One of marijuana legalization opponents’ top talking points these days centers around what they see as the attractiveness of cannabis edibles to underage kids. Now, one group of Colorado marijuana businesses is taking action that could help take that argument off the table.

The Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce (C4) announced on Wednesday that its 43 member businesses will adopt a new standard avoiding the production or sale of edibles shaped like humans or animals. “Animal shapes such as gummy bears, gummy worms, ‘sour patch kids’ and others items will be prohibited,” the policy reads.

Retail businesses that are part C4 have agreed only to buy or sell products that fit the new standard, even if they are sourcing from an edibles manufacturer that isn’t a part of the association. C4, which says its members employ more than 1,600 people, is aiming for a complete implementation of the standard by October 1, 2016.

Following New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd’s much-publicized bad trip in a Colorado hotel room after chowing down a cannabis candy bar, edibles have become a sticking point in the debate about ending prohibition.

Leading legalization opponent Kevin Sabet of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, for example, often emphasizes the existence of marijuana-infused candies and treats as one of his top concerns about legalizing the cannabis industry.

The issue took on new urgency after Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper called attention to it in his State of the State address last month.

“Back in the day, candy cigarettes desensitized kids to the dangers of tobacco – and today, pot-infused gummy bears send the wrong message to our kids about marijuana,” he said. “Let’s ask ourselves if we’re doing enough to make sure that edibles do not so closely resemble the same products kids can find in the candy aisle.”

Other officials have raised concerns as well, including Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, who supports legislation to legalize marijuana but wants his state to ban the sales edibles altogether, at least initially.

Tyler Henson, C4’s president, said in a press release that the industry hears the concerns loud and clear.

“C4 has worked to ensure our members adopt manufacturing and sales standards which recognize that legal marijuana should only be consumed by adults,” he said. “This is done in good faith and in the spirit of cooperation with cannabis regulators, community leaders, and our elected officials as we work together to continue to advance both public safety and robust industry standards.”

The association is also touting support for the new standard from state lawmakers.

“Protecting our children has been our North Star while navigating the unchartered territory of Colorado’s legal, licensed cannabis industry,” said Colorado State Representative Dan Pabon. “I’m so encouraged to see C4 taking the initiative to come forward with industry driven solutions like these proposed edibles standards. I hope others in the industry will follow their lead – voluntarily or otherwise.”

Colorado State Senator Kevin Lundberg, who chairs the chamber’s Health & Human Services Committee, said, “There is a need for restraint in how close a marijuana product appears to resemble every day candy products. I am pleased to see industry recognizing the need for this restraint without requiring legislative mandate.”

While the new standard likely doesn’t go far enough for legalization opponents like Sabet, it does show that the emerging legal cannabis industry is aware that the issue is a serious one and that its businesses are capable of some self-regulation.

About Author

Tom Angell covers policy and politics for Marijuana.com. Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit organization Marijuana Majority, which works to ensure that elected officials and the media treat legalization as a serious, mainstream issue. Marijuana Majority led the effort to get the U.S. Conference of Mayors to pass a resolution telling the federal government to respect state marijuana laws, and orchestrated the first-ever endorsement for marijuana legalization by a U.S. Supreme Court justice (John Paul Stevens). Previously, Tom worked for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (All organizations are listed for identification purposes only.)