How Can States Keep Children From Accidentally Eating Marijuana?

That’s what Colorado is trying to figure out.

Not safe for children.
National Journal
Emma Roller
May 8, 2014, 1 a.m.

Pot brownies have been the punch­line of count­less stoner jokes. But they’re no laugh­ing mat­ter in Col­or­ado.

Last month, a 19-year-old col­lege stu­dent from Wyom­ing fell to his death after eat­ing marijuana-laced cook­ies and jump­ing off the hotel he was stay­ing at. The stu­dent, Levy Thamba, was vis­it­ing Den­ver with friends to try out Col­or­ado’s marijuana of­fer­ings. Thamba’s death was the first one the Den­ver cor­on­er’s of­fice cat­egor­ized as caused by marijuana ed­ible in­tox­ic­a­tion.

It’s not just col­lege stu­dents who are at risk of in­tox­ic­a­tion by in­gest­ing dan­ger­ous ed­ibles. One Col­or­ado study from last year found a marked up­tick in the num­ber of young chil­dren who re­ceived med­ic­al treat­ment after ac­ci­dent­ally eat­ing marijuana-laced treats.

That’s why the Col­or­ado Le­gis­lature is work­ing to im­pose stricter stand­ards on the marijuana ed­ibles that are sold in dis­pens­ar­ies across the state. On Wed­nes­day, the state House voted un­an­im­ously to study wheth­er ed­ibles stamped with child warn­ings and giv­en uni­form col­ors or shapes made a dif­fer­ence in il­leg­al con­sump­tion. Ed­ibles are already re­quired to be sold in opaque, child­proof pack­aging with a warn­ing that the food con­tains marijuana.

In Janu­ary, Col­or­ado be­came the first state in the coun­try to al­low per­sons 21 and older to buy marijuana from state dis­pens­ar­ies for re­cre­ation­al use. Ed­ibles make up 20 to 40 per­cent of marijuana sales in the state. As the law cur­rently stands, the in­di­vidu­ally pack­aged ed­ibles that dis­pens­ar­ies sell can con­tain up to 10 times the “re­com­men­ded serving” of THC to get in­tox­ic­ated.

It’s more dif­fi­cult to reg­u­late ed­ibles for THC — the psy­cho­act­ive in­gredi­ent in marijuana — than in the marijuana buds that dis­pens­ar­ies sell.

It’s also harder to self-reg­u­late your in­take, since THC can be much more con­cen­trated in one pot brownie com­pared to smoking a joint. Un­like smoking marijuana, which takes ef­fect al­most im­me­di­ately, it can take any­where from 30 minutes to two hours for ed­ible marijuana to kick in. If users eat too much of an ed­ible, too quickly, they can eas­ily over­in­dulge.

Col­or­ado res­id­ents are ex­per­i­ment­ing — in both the per­son­al and leg­al sense. The state, along with Wash­ing­ton, is a test­ing ground to see wheth­er marijuana leg­al­iz­a­tion will be feas­ible in oth­er parts of the coun­try. States like Ari­zona and Alaska, along with the Dis­trict of Columbia, are con­sid­er­ing laws to leg­al­ize re­cre­ation­al marijuana.

If more states fol­low Col­or­ado’s lead, they’ll be able to learn from its mis­takes.

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