The Rocky Road for Edibles

By: Cecil King        

The Rocky Road for Edibles

Missouri visitors to Colorado’s legal cannabis market will find their favorite edibles look a little different. Cannabis-infused food products for sale in Colorado have come under new packaging rules as of February 1, 2015.

Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) gathered comments from industry leaders, parents groups, hospitals and law enforcement to implement the new rules. A new maximum individual dosage of THC for the recreational market was established at 10 milligrams. Each dose must be individually wrapped or marked. Utilization of newer, standardized child-resistant packaging also went into effect.

Tourists purchase upwards of 40% of all urban retail cannabis products sold in Colorado. That figure climbs to 90% in the heavily visited central mountain corridor. Edibles comprise 20% to 40% of all sales.

Many new cannabis users, attracted to the novelty of legal cannabis-infused chocolates, candies and other sweets, tend to consume them as a regular grocery store-bought treat. This could be a big newbie mistake. Colorado’s public cannabis smoking ban encourages tourists to buy edibles as an alternative to smoking or vaping, because edibles are clandestinely consumed in public places.

Cannabis edibles evolved from a medicinal usage environment where high potency and a longer duration were effective in treating acute and chronic illnesses. Patients would slowly increase cannabis dosage over several days or weeks to build up to high levels of beneficial cannabinoids in combating the effects of cancer, AIDS and other diseases.

This legacy of highly potent medical edibles transitioned to the newly created retail cannabis market with little modification or regard for inexperienced users leading to MED’s new rules.

Not following recommended edible dosage instructions could lead to unexpected and long-duration effects. Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and New York Times Columnist, Maureen Dowd discovered the consequences of disregarding dosage recommendations researching a cannabis industry story in 2014.

Dowd had the benefit of hours of private explanation about cannabis and cannabis products from Matt Brown, co-owner of Denver-based 420Tours. Brown is no stranger to educating beginner cannabis users who daily climb aboard his extremely popular city dispensary tours.

In a tour dispensary shop, Dowd spent nearly an hour privately discussing cannabis products and their effects with the dispensary owner, assistant manager and budtender, but ignored all instructions and recommendations as she consumed a 100mg infused chocolate bar later that evening.

“I became convinced that I had died and no one was telling me,” wrote Dowd in her column. No law can protect anyone from the consequences of their own behavior, but Colorado’s MED responded to the negative publicity and moved lightning fast to constrict the edibles market with tighter regulations.

Colorado’s legal cannabis market has suffered no economic repercussions and is on track to an estimated $1 billion in record-breaking sales for 2016. Visitors to Colorado from Missouri are often amazed at the wide variety of sophisticated cannabis-infused foods and drinks available at a typical Colorado retail cannabis shop.

“It’s like walking into an alternate underground universe,” exclaims Markus, “where all these fascinating pot products have magically appeared somehow, but they’ve been hidden from us.” Markus was describing his recent cannabis dispensary experience in Fort Collins.

Markus, a Saint Louis University graduate, and his wife Sara moved back to Missouri from Thousand Oaks, CA a few years ago. “I’m originally from Saint Louis, but we lived in California for the last twenty years,” explains Markus, “so I know a little bit about marijuana, even though I never had a rec, (i.e. a medical doctor recommendation required in California to possess cannabis).”

“We stumbled upon this dispensary in Fort Collins, Solace Meds, which was originally medical only,” continued Markus, “so they had just about every edible made, an amazing selection, especially for Fort Collins, which is kind of conservative and doesn’t have that many shops.”

Solace Meds, like many original dispensaries in Colorado can offer retail cannabis in a separate retail space from medical products.

The citizens of Colorado, like California, Washington, Alaska and Oregon, demanded their state governments allow “medical use” of cannabis more than a decade and a half ago. The other western states gained approval several years prior to Colorado and have extensive experience successfully regulating cannabis for many years.

In Missouri, prohibition still continues to block access to the medicinal benefits of cannabis as well as the economic benefits a legal cannabis market provides. Without citizen initiative to overturn prohibitionist policies, Missourians will be blocked from the thousands of jobs, new retail businesses, science and technology developments, and new ancillary businesses legalized cannabis has created in other states.