Colorado’s new cannabis laws: OK to smoke, not OK to eat
Tim Walker is The Independent’s Los Angeles correspondent, covering entertainment and other concerns from the West Coast of the US. He was previously a features writer and the editor of the paper’s diary column. His first novel, Completion, was published in 2014.
Thursday 01 May 2014
Colorado, the US state which recently became the first to legalise cannabis for recreational use, is considering new legislation to govern pot-infused food. A task force comprised of lawmakers and marijuana producers met in Aurora, near Denver, on Wednesday to begin discussing new rules for the labelling and consumption of so-called “edibles”, following two recent deaths that were said to have been marijuana-related.
In late 2012, Colorado voters passed a constitutional amendment legalising marijuana for recreational use. The new law came into force on 1 January 2014, when legal commercial weed sales began. In its first month, the state raised around $2m (£1.2m) in pot taxes.
For many, edible pot products have proved to be a more practical alternative to smoking the drug: the law prohibits smoking weed outdoors and few hotels allow it on their premises. Yet while edibles are increasingly popular, there are also widespread complaints from consumers that they are inadvertently ingesting too much pot too quickly, leading to bad experiences.
In March, Levy Thamba Pongi, a 19-year-old student from Wyoming, leapt from the fourth floor balcony of a Denver hotel to his death. He is thought to have eaten significantly more of a marijuana cookie than the seller had recommended.
Last month, Denver native Kristine Kirk, 44, called the emergency services to report that her husband, Richard, was hallucinating after consuming pot-infused edibles. By the time police arrived, Mr Kirk, 47, had shot his wife dead. However, police later said he may also have been taking prescription pain medication at the time of the attack.
Colorado state law already limits the amount of pot’s active ingredient, THC, in edibles to 10mg per serving – approximately the equivalent potency of a medium-sized joint – with no more than 10 servings in any single package sold. The same limits are expected in Washington state, which has also legalised the drug for recreational use and where commercial sales are due to begin in July.
Cannabis comestibles also have to be sold in childproof wrappers with labelling warning that the product contains the drug. A bill currently being considered by state legislators would demand that the edible products themselves be marked with a warning.
The task force, which includes representatives of Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division, is considering a labelling system modelled after the difficulty guidelines on the state’s ski slopes, with green representing a weak serving of weed, and black representing particularly potent products.
The group has not set any deadline for its recommendations.
Mike Elliott of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, said: “Sometimes when you consume edibles you don’t feel anything for a couple of hours, so people get impatient and take much more than they need. We are in a situation where there are new people using marijuana who might have reactions that they don’t anticipate.”
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