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Colorado considers a new look for edible pot

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Friday, August 1, 2014 - 8:35 am

DENVER — Edible marijuana comes with all kinds of warning labels in Colorado. But once those pot brownies and gummy bears are out of the package, they can look identical to straight-laced treats.

A panel of marijuana producers and industry critics start work Friday on trying to make edible pot identifiable to kids even when it's out of the package, a challenge some edible-pot makers say can't be achieved.

Colorado, which has legalized the recreational use of marijuana, currently requires edible pot to be sold in child-safe packages to note that the contents contain marijuana, that the product can make consumers sick and shouldn't be consumed before driving.

But Colorado lawmakers tightened the edible pot regulations earlier this year after reports of children accidentally eating pot-infused treats. Lawmakers passed around platters of chocolate chip cookies, some of them containing pot, and expressed alarm that the products looked identical.

"We've heard so many stories pf people consuming marijuana not knowing it was marijuana," said Rachel O'Bryan is an attorney and founding volunteer leader of Smart Colorado, a group that advocates for strict marijuana regulations.

"Without a stamp or a clearly visible difference, these products are deceptive."

Edible-pot makers insist they're not trying to fool anybody, but that requiring the products themselves not to look like other foods goes too far.

"It works for some products, but others, it's going to be extremely hard and more than likely impracticable," said Julie Berliner, owner of SweetGrass Kitchens, which makes marijuana-infused cookies.

Others in the industry argue that stamping a chocolate with a pot leaf, for example, does little to prevent consumption by kids too young to read.

The rules are in addition to edible-pot packaging restrictions already in the works.

A draft emergency rule awaiting the governor's approval requires Colorado's makers of edible pot to physically demark their products so that consumers can "intuitively determine" how much constitutes a dose of marijuana's intoxicating ingredient, THC.

A spokeswoman for the Colorado agency that prepared the rules couldn't comment on them because they have not been made public. But Natriece Bryant of the state Department of Revenue confirmed that the rules take effect in November if approved by the governor, as expected. The final rule could differ from the draft obtained by AP.

Colorado's rules already require edible pot to be sold in "servings" of 10 milligrams of THC. But many consumers have complained they can't tell what a serving is and eat too much of a heavily-dosed product, leading to many reports of unpleasant experiences, including nausea and feelings of paralysis. Those stronger-dosed edibles are holdovers from the medical pot marketplace, where sellers say consumers who have built up strong tolerances won't buy anything that has a dosage less than 100 milligrams of THC.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote in June of going into a "hallucinatory state" after visiting Colorado and eating too much pot candy. And an edible pot cookie has been blamed for the death earlier this year of a college student who ate more than six times the suggested dose and then fell to his death from a hotel balcony.