Colorado Amendment 64 and the Marijuana Edibles Packaging Problem

by Joseph Damele

Never the one to stop herself from placing her foot in her mouth, Nancy Grace lovingly called those who disagreed with her position regarding Colorado’s legalization of recreational use of marijuana as “fat and lazy” as they were most likely “sitting on the couch eating potato chips.” [1] I immediately took offense to this as I was sitting on a chair eating Reese’s peanut butter cups. I often find potato chips too greasy.

In all seriousness, Nancy Grace had a point behind her shocking and uneducated words. She lamented that she would not want her babysitter smoking, or high, while watching her kids and that driving while high would lead to disastrous results. She then wanted to know how Colorado would regulate for these concerns. Well, admittedly, my first thoughts were that her babysitter, if she used marijuana, most likely was already high illegally while watching her kids and drove to her house high. The fact of the matter is that, for most of my parents’ lives and all of mine, marijuana use has been flaunted and open.

Further, I would bet my bottom dollar that driving under the influence of marijuana is more common than driving while drunk. Perhaps unknown by Nancy Grace, Colorado has already announced and implemented regulations to address these concerns, similar to those for alcohol. [2] However, it was the CNN reporter in this interview that raised another, and more important, concern; how do we stop children from mistakenly ingesting edible marijuana products?

To a certain point, the responsibility surely falls to the parents. After all, just like alcohol and other drugs, the parents must place the items where their little ones will not find, open and ingest them. However, unlike these other products, edibles come in brownie, cookie, candy and even gum forms. Many a small child will see a bottle of prescription pills or a bottle of Jack Daniels and know intuitively that these are for adults. For example, my own little cousin of 6 years old told me that wine was “ADULT grape juice.”

Yet, these edible marijuana products look and taste like their favorite snacks and goodies. An exploring child may find these products even in the best hiding places, fail to read or recognize that it is marijuana and then eat the product, harming the child. It seems instructive to this point that Dr. George Wang from the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center in Denver, Colorado found that out of the 14 child marijuana emergency room visits (in one hospital) since decriminalization, 7 cases were from edibles. [3]

Dr. Wang, who has been studying the effects of marijuana on children for years, has also found a dramatic increase in cases since decriminalization in Colorado had occurred. Often these cases include sleepiness, nausea and inability to stand/walk. For example, in Longmont, Colorado, a two year-old girl found a marijuana cookie in her home. Her mother, Aida Hernandez, told her to throw it away. She instead ate the cookie. Later, while the two were walking through the mall, she became sleepy, could not walk well and was opening and closing her eyes. She was taken to the local hospital where she tested positive for THC. [4]

Other similar stories have come from California and Washington, two of the most pot-friendly states in the country. These side effects are not uncommon. In fact, users of marijuana often seek these side effects. However, as Dr. Wang stated in his medical report regarding child exposure, “you get such a high dose on such a small child, the symptoms are more severe.” While this sounds harmless, two of these 14 cases resulted in intensive care treatment and the others still required hospital “supportive care treatments.” [5] So, the question that comes to mind is: what are states doing to stop this from happening?

According to many news articles, Colorado is leading the way in packaging with states such as Washington following suit. Last July, the Colorado legislature introduced legislation to require more stringent packaging. The old packaging was compliant with the federal standard of “child resistant” for items that could potentially harm children. However, this new packaging is designed to be “child proof” or “significantly harder for a child of 5 to open,” much like prescription pill bottles. In Colorado, these containers must be opaque and conform to the new formulation of child-resistant. [6] Often, dispensaries are using what is called a “stink sack.” These bags are smell proof with a double locking mechanism.

However, many other dispensaries are having trouble complying with the law. One such example is of the large dispensary chain called The Clinic. The Clinic had bought 40,000 bags in anticipation of the January 1st legalization that are only opaque on one side despite upholding the new child resistant standard required by Colorado. [7] However, the day of selling marijuana in plastic bags may already be in the past. A&A Packaging, a California company specializing in medical marijuana packaging, has a full line of pharmaceutical grade plastics, acrylics and glass containers that are becoming popular. [8] Such products have two benefits; the look and feel of a pharmaceutical product, and similar locking and safety features as regular prescription containers.

This may, or may not, be a real solution to the problem. One could reasonably assume that if a child does not know a brownie or cookie is in the container, and it looks like other prescription containers they have encountered, then the child will open the container at a similar rate to other prescription drugs or packaging of that kind. Nevertheless, the legalization of recreational pot has caused a small problem for the well being of the children of marijuana users. Colorado is the test case for this experiment and as their policy evolves, so will our knowledge of how this problem may be solved.


[1] Mike Posner, Nancy Grace: Legalizing marijuana for recreational use is a ‘horrible idea’, Yahoo! News, Jan 6, 2014, http://news.yahoo.com/nancy-grace-doesn-t-like-pot-heads–pot-heads-say-feeling-is-mutual-215746455.html.
[2] See Colo. Const. Art. XVIII, Section 16.
[3] Steven Reinberg, Kids Poisoned by Medical Marijuana, Study Finds, Health Day News, May 27, 2013, http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2013/05/27/kids-poisoned-by-medical-marijuana-study-finds. See also Dr. George Wang, Pediatric Marijuana Exposures in a Medical Marijuana State, 167 J. of Am. Med. Associations (2013).
[4] Matthew Mientka, Legalized Marijuana Cookie Sends 2-Year-Old Girl To Hospital In Colorado, Medical Daily, Jan 4, 2014, http://www.medicaldaily.com/legalized-marijuana-cookie-sends-2-year-old-girl-hospital-colorado-266338.
[5] See Dr. George Wang, Pediatric Marijuana Exposures in a Medical Marijuana State, 167 J. of Am. Med. Associations (2013).
[6] Eric Gorski, Marijuana shop owners racing to bag safety, The Denver Post, Dec 7, 2013, http://www.denverpost.com/ci_24674467/shops-racing-bag-safety.
[7] Id.
[8] Expansion of Marijuana Legalization Spurs Movement for Child Safety in Washington and Colorado, PR Web, Dec 26, 2013, http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/12/prweb11447697.htm.

 

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2 Responses to Colorado Amendment 64 and the Marijuana Edibles Packaging Problem

  1. I love your website and it’s a great read.

  2. Ken says:

    The products should conform to Schedule 2 ( high potential for abuse) prescription drugs. The CRRXWEAR is a key locking low cost prescription bottle that comes in 6 sizes. This will fix the under 21 year old population from getting into the product inside. The current ASTM D 3475 requirement is a joke.

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