Colorado advances edible marijuana restrictions

DENVER - Colorado lawmakers advanced a measure to broaden a ban on certain types of edible marijuana to include products that mimic other foods or candies.

A House committee unanimously approved the House Bill 1366 Thursday, sending it to the full chamber for a debate later.

The legislation comes amid concerns that children can accidentally ingest some kinds of marijuana edibles. It would direct the state Department of Revenue to adopt rules requiring that marijuana edibles be clearly marked or designed to show that they contain pot.

In the first four months of recreational sales in Colorado, the Rocky Mountain Poison Center is tracking six cases of children being sickened after eating pot-filled edibles. Five of those children were treated at an emergency room and two of them ended up in the intensive care unit.

In all of the child poisoning incidents, the pot edibles were in arms reach of the children, Dr. Alvin Bronstein, medical director at the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center, told 7NEWS.

During the same time period, 20 adults have been sickened by pot edibles, including nine who required treatment at the hospital.

"They can hallucinate, they can see things, they can be anxious. They can become dizzy," Dr. Bronstein said.

Most marijuana edible packaging list the serving size and dosage -- yet state lawmakers are considering even stricter labeling.

"At the very least, make sure kids and adults know what they're putting in their mouths, whether it's a dessert, whether it's a marijuana product," said Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont.

Lawmakers are trying to prevent is accidental ingestion by children who can't tell the difference between a regular cookie or gummy bear and the kinds infused with pot. Lawmakers also worry that officials won't be able to know when students have marijuana at school when the drug is in the form of an edible.

"They're hard to find, they're hard to identify and they're hard to locate," said Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, one of the sponsors of the bill, which would prohibit edibles that mimic other foods or candies.

Yet, some marijuana activists worry that the bill as written could mean that nothing that looks like food could be infused with marijuana, essentially banning any type of edible pot.

Dan Anglin, a managing partner of edible-maker EdiPure, told lawmakers that he and other companies are giving adults what they want.

"Sweet treats is what people want. Nobody's infusing steak," he said.

He said the child-resistant packaging that is already required work. And he noted that without its packaging, some alcohol products also can be confused for non-alcoholic drinks.

Last week during a hearing, McNulty showed lawmakers a tray with various sweets, some containing marijuana and some not, and he asked his colleagues if they could tell the difference. On Thursday, Anglin responded with his own presentation, showing lawmakers several clear plastic bottles with liquids.

"Do you think this is apple juice? This is hard apple juice. That's liquor at 17 percent. How about this?" he asked. "This is root beer that has alcohol in it. This is lemonade with alcohol in it. Which one of these is water? Can you tell?"

But supporters of the bill say it's a needed measure to keep pot away from children, now that marijuana is more available since legal recreational sales began in January for those 21 and older.

Smart Colorado, an advocacy group that lobbies to limit youth marijuana use, spoke in support of the bill. Rachel O'Bryan, one of the founding members of the group, told lawmakers that she hopes the bill protects her son so he "can safely accept an offer of a rainbow belt, or a Swedish fish, wherever he may be -- at school, at the park, at a friend's house or even a party."

House Bill 1366: http://bit.ly/1iyQZWa
 

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