Colorado health officials on Monday backtracked on their call to ban almost all recreational marijuana edibles in the state, just hours after their recommendation for such a prohibition surfaced publicly.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment backed away from its recommendation for a ban after outraged marijuana industry representatives argued that state voters made all forms of marijuana legal in 2012. The Associated Press's Kristen Wyatt reported that a Health Department official said a ban "was not our intent."
Talk of an edibles ban came as lawmakers, industry representatives and state officials on Monday discussed what should be included in a Colorado House bill that would add restrictions to the sale of edible marijuana products. Marijuana edibles -- food and beverage products infused with compounds derived from marijuana, such as THC or CBD -- have been under fire following two high-profile deaths that may have been linked to the treats.
The Health Department's recommendation "is just that, a recommendation," said Dr. Larry Wolk, the department's executive director and chief medical officer, in a statement following Monday's working group meeting. “Our recommendation does not represent the view of the governor’s office, nor was it reviewed by the governor. It was put together only in consideration of the public health challenges of underage marijuana ingestion."
The department's written suggestion, obtained by The Huffington Post, was one of several discussed during the meeting of legislators, state officials and industry representatives. But it was the only one calling for what amounted to a ban of almost all edible marijuana products. State lawmakers have proposed reducing serving sizes to 10 milligrams of THC -- about the amount in a medium-sized joint -- from 100 milligrams, requiring clearer labeling, and creating new safeguards to ensure children can't get their hands on cannabis-infused foods.
"Prohibit the production of retail edible marijuana products other than a simple lozenge/hard candy or tinctures that are plainly labeled using universal symbol(s) and that users can add to their products at home," the Health Department recommended. "Hard candy/lozenges would be manufactured in single 10 mg doses/lozenges and tinctures would be produced and labeled with dosing instructions, such as two drops equals 10 mg."
The bill requires that a working group be assembled before passage to discuss concerns, recommendations and requests regarding marijuana edibles. The working group will not draft rules. Instead, it will produce a report that includes recommendations so lawmakers can best understand the issues and the suggestions.
The Colorado Department of Revenue's Marijuana Enforcement Division, which oversees the state's marijuana industry, including edibles, would make the final rules based on recommendations from the working group and state lawmakers after the 2015 legislative session.
"It is important to note that we will be collecting both supportive and dissenting opinions for each recommendation during the working group process and these opinions will be included in the Division's report to the general assembly," Natriece Bryant, communications specialist at Colorado's Department of Revenue, told HuffPost. "The Division views its primary role as a facilitator to the working group process and as drafter of the final report, it is our role, at this juncture, to ensure that all of the underlying issues and potential recommendations are identified, considered and included in the report."
"Unfortunately, this debate is often driven by a small faction of people whose goal is to reinstate the failed policy of prohibition," Mason Tvert, communications director for Marijuana Policy Project, told HuffPost. "It’s unfortunate that so much time is being spent discussing proposed bans, when it could be spent discussing realistic approaches that could actually have the intended effect of preventing accidental and over-consumption."