Pubdate: Sat, 06 May 2017
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Times Colonist
Author: Laura Kane
Page: D9


Colorado's edible pot industry goes from public enemy to public-health
leader, and wants Canada to take note

BOULDER, Colorado - A tray of tempting pastel-coloured candies sits on
a countertop inside AmeriCanna's production facility. Although shaped
like pot leaves and stamped with Colorado's universal symbol for the
mind-altering ingredient in cannabis - a diamond containing the
letters "THC" - the gummies would only provide a sugar high at this

Working with precision and speed, the kitchen supervisor uses a device
to soak each candy with marijuana extract, so that each piece contains
exactly 10 milligrams of THC, a single dose under the state's

The entire process takes seconds, but it represents the culmination of
a long regulatory journey for Colorado's edible marijuana industry.
AmeriCanna owner Dan Anglin wants Canada to learn from it.

"I've heard it all. I know what they're going to say before they say
it. 'What about kids who are at a party and somebody gives them weed
candy?' OK, well, if you create a symbol like Colorado did, it gives
them an opportunity to educate the public," Anglin said.

"It's very easy to have a government commercial that says: 'Here's what 
you're looking for, mom and dad, when you go through your teenager's 
backpack.' Or: 'Are you at a party? Did somebody hand you something? 
Well, if it has this symbol on it, then that's drugs.' "

Although many might assume inhaling hot smoke into your lungs would be
the greater public health concern than marijuana candies, it was the
edible industry that caused the greatest amount of debate after
Colorado legalized pot in 2012. Today, the state is a leader in
packaging and dosage rules, and officials and businesses say Canada
should take notes.

The Canadian government has said when marijuana becomes legal on July
1, 2018, sales will entail only fresh and dried cannabis, oils and
seeds and plants for cultivation. Sales of edibles will come later,
once regulations for production and sale can be developed.

When Colorado's first recreational pot dispensaries opened in January
2014, there were practically no restrictions on edibles. They were
packaged in clear bags, Anglin said, and the cookies and brownies
inside often looked identical to any other sugary treat. There was
also no standardized dose, so a consumer who didn't pace him or
herself could accidentally ingest a whopping 100 milligrams of THC.

In 2014, the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center received 87
marijuana exposure calls about children and youth under 18, nearly
doubling the total for the previous year. A Wyoming college student
jumped to his death from a balcony after eating infused cookies. New
York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote about her harrowing trip after
consuming too much of a pot-laced candy bar. All of these incidents
grabbed national headlines and sent industry and officials into a tailspin.

"When we first started, we really had no idea what the world of
edibles would look like," said Dr. Larry Wolk, chief medical officer
of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. "We had
to quickly consider all of that as we put those rules into place."

With input from business owners, including Anglin, the state developed
packaging, labelling and potency restrictions that came into effect in
2015. Now, edibles must be contained in child-resistant packaging and
be wrapped individually or demarcated in servings of 10 or fewer
milligrams of THC.

The state has also banned cartoon characters on packaging, and edibles
cannot be shaped like humans, fruit or animals - so no more gummies in
the shape of bears. It later required all edibles to be individually
marked with the universal THC symbol.

"We were ahead of the curve on that," said Anglin, whose company began
selling symbol-marked candies months before the rule came into force
last October.

"A lot of companies that, say, were small, mom-and-pop companies that
didn't have millions of dollars behind them, who weren't paying
attention to the news - it was a surprise to them. They couldn't
afford to continue to make that product."

Figures from the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center suggest
child-poisoning calls involving marijuana have started to come down.
There were 82 calls about kids and youth under 18 in 2016, down from
111 the previous year.

"That pales in comparison to the thousands of calls we get when kids
ingest alcohol, or when kids ingest over-the-counter medications or
even prescription medications," Wolk said.

Wolk said the transformation of edible packaging and dosage rules in
Colorado has been a success, largely due to co-operation between
industry and government. He advised Canada to start small by allowing
low-dose THC in predictable servings.

Inside the Cannabis Station dispensary in downtown Denver, manager
Mike Koulouvaris shows off the store's wide variety of THC-infused
candies, gummies and drinks. He carefully instructs how much to eat
and how long to wait before nibbling on more.

Koulouvaris, a former edibles chef, said he believes the products
shouldn't taste too good, so people aren't tempted to overeat. At the
same time, he said he thinks the regulations have gone too far.

"It's limiting creativity," he said. "It should be the responsibility
of the parents to make sure that their stuff isn't lying around,
rather than making it be in child-resistant containers. I don't think
alcohol is in child-resistant containers."
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