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
Add to Briefcase
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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