You’ll notice something different about cannabis edibles in Colorado starting October 1st, namely a prominent THC warning printed on all the goodies, due to the implementation of House Bill 1366, which was approved by State Attorney General Cynthia Coffman back in August 2014.
These “emergency rules,” intended to address the issue of people accidentally ingesting pot food, have been slow to roll out due to numerous complications including designing a universal THC warning symbol and deciding how to apply it to a diverse selection of cannabis-infused foodstuffs.
Last November, the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division revealed the universal symbol: a diamond shape containing the letters THC along with an exclamation point.
Applied to cannabis-infused foods by using expensive custom molds, stencils, airbrushing or frosting, the universal symbol is impracticable to imprint on bulk products like granola or liquid drinks, so those items are now limited to individually-packaged, single serving sizes of only 10 milligrams.
All edibles manufacturers must comply with this new rule by October 1st, while recreational stores and dispensaries can sell inventory without the universal symbol until December 1st. (Look for big sales on Black Friday!)
Other new rules include mandated servings sizes of ONLY 10 mg of THC each that must be scored, marked or cut; a ban on using the word “candy” on packaging or labeling; and a limit on how many edibles can be purchased at one time, so you can only walk out of a legal pot store with 80 10-mg servings of pot food, intended to be equivalent to one ounce of flower.
Last week, the Marijuana Enforcement Division released a bulletin regarding HB 16-1427 and its effect on multi-dose liquid products. Cannabis-infused drinks are still permitted as long as they are “packaged in a structure that uses a single mechanism to achieve both child resistance and accurate pouring measurement of each liquid serving in increments equal to or less than 10 milligrams of activated THC per serving, with no more than 100 milligrams activated THC per package.”
Colorado edibles producers have been preparing for the new rules for over a year, with many manufacturers researching innovative ways to mark their products with the THC warning. Designing new molds for cannabis-infused chocolates was a straightforward solution, but retooling production processes was costly and time-consuming.
Denver-based cannabis chocolate company Blue Kudu took the opportunity to envision a complete re-design of their product line, requiring 2,000 new chocolate molds that cost upwards of $30,000. Still, the company embraced the change, confirming their commitment to public safety by going above and beyond the new requirements to also include a 10 mg dosage stamp on each chocolate segment.
“We needed to increase our chocolate bar size by 33 percent to legibly fit the THC warnings,” company spokesperson Gina Cannon explains, “This, in turn, required changing our packaging as the new bar would not fit, which then necessitated an entirely new packaging solution. Using the most advanced child-resistant packaging available from Ecobliss, we created a new box-shaped packaging that fit the bar and met the state regulations.”
Baked goods aren’t as easy to stamp or mark compared to chocolate, so Karin Lazarus at Sweet Mary Jane had to get more creative, printing the symbol on tiny candies which were then added to her signature truffles.
“These alone are fairly expensive, however, the major cost is putting them onto the products. Along with the new packaging rules, this has added quite a bit to our costs,” Lazarus writes. “We tried about 10 different methods of getting the symbol onto our edibles and for the most part they looked so unappealing that we chose not to use them. I don’t see another way to get the symbol on the truffles or chocolates and still have them look beautiful.”
Sweet Mary Jane is still experimenting with how to apply the universal symbol to their coveted brownies and cookies while continuing to making them fresh and visually stunning.
Alternatively, Sweet Grass Kitchen, a wholesale edible manufacturer in Colorado that produces mostly baked goods, is using a class 4 laser to engrave the universal symbol into all of their baked goods. This was the best solution due to the porous nature of baked goods which the CO Marijuana Enforcement Division deemed, to much industry objection, ‘practicable to imprint’ with the symbol.
“This regulatory change requires production capabilities that are extremely advanced for a wholesale bakery of our size. The timeline to get into compliance was also unreasonable—any other industry would have multiple years to comply, whereas the cannabis industry had less than one.” remarks Eric Knight, the COO of Sweet Grass Kitchen.
The onerous restrictions have inspired new business models as entrepreneurs attempt to help the cannabis-infused foods industry comply. Cannamark USA, a new company out of Connecticut, devised a direct-on-edible printing process that uses all natural, FDA-approved inks.
“The entire industry is responsible to help ensure that cannabis infused food products are not accidentally or over-ingested,” states Joy Macko, the Chief Operations Officer. “CannaMark USA and its partner Code Tech provide the infused edibles market with a safer product, allowing other states considering legalization a proven way to differentiate ‘like-looking’ products.”
As stated previously, these new regulations will do little or nothing to decrease accidental ingestions by toddlers, the age group most susceptible to these mishaps, because little kids don’t read or care about symbols printed on food. They’ll eat batteries, makeup or detergent pods, let alone pot brownies. Parental education campaigns and increased public awareness are the only real tools available to battle the pesky problem of kids visiting the ER due to eating cannabis-infused edibles.
Also, the new rules only effect license-holding manufacturers, not people making edibles at home, where no metered dosing, child-resistant packaging or printed THC warnings are mandated. Higher prices for professional edibles will continue to drive customers to purchase black market products which are difficult to dose correctly without the benefit of lab testing.