cannabis packaging lawsThis fall, the edibles sold in Colorado are looking a little different. As of October 1st, there are new packaging rules aimed to make edibles safer for adults and less appealing to children. Per Colorado’s official website, the rules are now as follows:

  • A universal symbol must be featured prominently on edible packaging. This must exist on both medical and recreational weed (though the symbols are similar, they’re not the same). Packaging must also contain the following warning: “Contains Marijuana. Keep out of the reach of children.”
  • Manufacturers of edibles must comply with the new rules by October 1 (so they must already be complying) while retail stores have until December 1st, allowing them to sell off their non-compliant inventory.
  • Every serving for retail marijuana (i.e., 10 mgs of THC) must be marked with the universal symbol. If this isn’t possible (in the case of powders, for instance), products must be packaged as single servings, in containers that are childproof.
  • Medical marijuana makers may choose their standard portion and each of these portions must be marked with the universal symbol.
  • The words “candies” or “candy” can’t appear on the packaging unless those words are part of the retailer’s name.
  • Every container must include a potency statement and a contaminant testing statement (in a visible area).
  • No health or physical benefits claims can be listed on the packaging.

New Packaging to Safeguard Children

The reason for these changes has to do, in part, with children getting their hands on edibles and assuming that they’re simply candy. Barbara Brohl, the director for the Colorado Department of Revenue, went on record to say,

“Our priority is protecting the public health and safety of all Coloradans. We collaborated extensively with all stakeholders to develop sensible rules that will provide consumers more information about what they’re buying and to ensure marijuana stays out of the hands of children. It is critical for retail and medical marijuana businesses licensed by the Department of Revenue to understand their role in implementing these rules on time.”

The universal symbol intends to make marijuana easily identifiable, avoiding mix-ups for children (as mentioned above), but adults as well. Most emergency rooms in legal states have handfuls of tales of grownups who mistakenly ate a pot brownie, believing it was just a regular Sara Lee and not a Mary Jane. But these new rules will also help knowing consumers understand the serving size and avoid unintentionally taking too much. These rules also help schools, parents, and authorities identify cannabis products even when they’re not in their original wrappers – edible-infused sour gummies will pass for Sour Patch Kids no more.

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More Packaging Changes on the Horizon

These changes aren’t really a big deal for those on the consuming end of things. Sure, they create extra work for manufacturers and retailers, but customers won’t experience much of a difference – most people consume edibles without studying them. They won’t notice that they’re marked with a universal symbol or anything else. cannabis packaging safer for kidsBut the serving size regulations may prove beneficial – edibles are notoriously easy to over-consume. This is because, unlike smoking pot, the edible high doesn’t kick in for a while, sometimes as long as two hours. People either get tired of waiting or they assume they got a dud and ingest more. And, while this won’t leave them overdosing in the sense of cocaine or heroin, at best it can make for a long, paranoid night. Unfortunately, it can also do much worse – though they’re few and far between, there are sprinklings of reports of people committing suicide and even murder after consuming what is suspected to be more marijuana than they’d intended.

More Changes Ahead?

According to Denver’s 9 News, the above changes may only be a sign of things to come. Some people, including those who manufacturer edibles, want to find a way to make edibles less appealing to kids once the package is open and the candy is visible. In other words, they’re focused on shape. From animal crackers to Goldfish, shapes have always been used as a way to entice youth – eating a regular cookie is okay, but eating one shaped like a rhino? That’s oodles better! Because this is a marketing ploy used to entice kids, people in marijuana argue that it shouldn’t exist in cannabis.

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In short, edibles shouldn’t be shaped like animals, fruit, or humans

But this change won’t come cheap – in order to reshape their edibles, manufacturers need to purchase new molds. Some project that mold replacement could cost businesses anywhere between 10,000 and 100,000 dollars. Colorado isn't the first state to enforce regulations out of concern for children. In September 2016, the Oregon Liquor Commission passed a temporary ban on cannabis products they deemed to be "attractive to minors." Strains, such as Girl Scout Cookies and Charlotte's Web were affected by the ban. Begging the question for some of whether or not Colorado will roll out similar policies.

ER Visits and Children

Whether this helps reduce the number of pot-related incidents in youth remains to be seen. As NBC News reports, the number of teenagers who’ve visited emergency rooms for marijuana has quadrupled in the past four years in Colorado since recreational legalization. But this doesn’t necessarily mean more teens are using. It could simply be a result of more teens admitting to it. Of course, teens who end up in the emergency room after ingesting pot probably didn’t unwittingly eat it because it was shaped like an apple. They might tell their parents that, but many teens consume pot for the fun of it. Thus, the above regulations probably won’t influence teenage consumption, but they may help avoid it in younger kids.