Colorado’s pot industry will face its first major regulatory shift of 2015 on Sunday when popular but controversial infused edibles will be forced to comply with new packaging, labeling and potency restrictions passed last year.
Under the new regulations, edibles sold recreationally must be wrapped individually or demarked in increments of 10 or fewer milligrams of activated THC, the major psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. The state’s recommended dose is 10 milligrams. Edibles packaging, too, is changing as new, more child-resistant restrictions go into effect.
New edibles regulations
Packaging: Each standardized 10-milligram serving must be demarked “in a way that enables a reasonable person to intuitively determine how much of the product constitutes a single serving of active THC.”
Labeling: There will be more explicit warnings and thorough information on labels, including warning statements such as “This product is unlawful outside the State of Colorado” and “The intoxicating effects of this product may be delayed by two or more hours.”
Potency: The Marijuana Enforcement Division is providing incentives for companies to produce 10 milligram products by putting greater burdens on manufacturers of products between 10 and 100 milligrams.
Often considered pot for beginners, edibles make up roughly 45 percent of the legal cannabis marketplace in Colorado.
But the first year of legal sales was not without problems. The death of a Wyoming college student who jumped from a Denver hotel balcony after eating an infused cookie, a surge in the number of children brought to emergency rooms for accidental marijuana ingestion and the sheer popularity of edibles with tourists led to calls for tighter regulation.
The changes grew out of the findings of a work group that included representatives from the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division, the industry, parent groups, hospitals and law enforcement agencies. And while the switch is costing pot businesses, the industry is speaking out in favor of the regulations. Consumers stand to benefit, not just from rules that should make consumption safer but in cut-rate prices in the short term.
“In clearly marking what the dose is, hopefully that will lead to more responsible use and public education,” said John Lord, owner of LivWell, which has nine pot shops in Colorado. “It keeps us safe, and it provides uniformity for the product itself.”
The Post requested comment this week on the new rules from the state Marijuana Enforcement Division, but a spokeswoman said no one was immediately available.
Playing it safe
An example of the shift is seen in Dixie Elixirs’ popular infused mints. The mints used to come loose in a tin, 10 mints at 10 milligrams each (100 milligrams total). Dixie’s new mints come packed individually in blister packs, similar to some pill and gum packaging, 16 mints at 5 milligrams apiece (80 milligrams total).
The reason behind the lower potency: Dixie is playing it safe, making sure the now-individually wrapped edibles wouldn’t surpass 10 milligrams apiece — hoping to cash in on the state’s new incentives, including less stringent testing, for low-dose products. The new mints as a package also are less likely to top the state’s 100-milligram limit. If a recreational edible tests for more than 100 milligrams of activated THC, its maker risks being forced to destroy the entire batch.
“A lot of us are being conservative when we approach product development,” said Dixie marketing chief Joe Hodas. “Instead of pushing the upper limit of a 100-milligram product, we’d rather put out a 90-milligram product.”
Edibles company The Growing Kitchen already was focusing on low-dosage edibles, so its preparation for the Feb. 1 deadline was mostly on the packaging end, according to Cody Mayasich, a sales lead at the company.
“We started preparing for the child-resistant packaging in August, so we’re already sending out compliant packaging this week,” said Susan Armitage, an executive assistant at The Growing Kitchen. “We’re very excited for the change. We think it’s good for the industry and for safety reasons and corporate responsibility.”
Oversight of edibles: The early months of Colorado’s legal marijuana sales spotlighted several edibles issues, including an independent Denver Post analysis of THC potency in products that revealed big discrepancies
Other companies are phasing out infused edibles that couldn’t work under the new recreational regulations. Dixie’s high-dosage recreational 100-milligram Colorado Bar will become extinct as of Feb. 1 — and that leaves Dixie needing to unload some of its soon-to-be-noncompliant inventory.
“Because of these changes in packaging and serving size and potency, a lot of our products are going to change,” Hodas said. “The dispensaries are hesitant to take new product because they won’t be able to sell high-dose products like our Colorado Bar, which is a single serving item that has 100 milligrams, after the end of the month.”
That’s why Dixie is partnering with marijuana chains Euflora and LivWell to offload its old product. Dixie’s wholesale price to Euflora was recently cut by 50 percent with the understanding that the store would keep costs low for its customers, according to Euflora owner Jamie Perino.
“I’m running a bunch of ads in magazines and newspapers advertising blowout sales, trying to get stuff moving,” said Perino, who owns shops in Denver and Aurora. “I’d rather run out and have shelves empty than have a bunch of product on the shelves that needs to be destroyed.”
Euflora’s normal price on a Dixie Elixir infused drink with 70 milligrams of activated THC: $22.50. Her current price on the almost noncompliant Dixie drinks until she closes shop on Jan. 31: $7.
And she’s not alone.
“We are doing 40 percent off all recreational edibles at all of our recreational stores until Feb. 1 so we can offload all the product,” said Brian Keegan, director of retail operations for LivWell.
The temporary price cuts are substantial, especially when you consider that the cost of a recreational eighth of marijuana at 12 prominent Colorado pot shops dropped only by 9 percent from January 2014 to December 2014, according to Denver Post data.
Some stores are pushing 30 percent to 40 percent discounts through the end of January, while others are offering deals in which customers can buy one and get another for a penny.
These regulations are only the beginning. The work group that helped create them in 2014 never reached a place of full agreement.
At one point, Colorado health officials proposed a ban on most forms of edible marijuana, and the industry fought back immediately.
“Even though I would have shaped it a little bit differently,” said Dixie’s Hodas, “this is a necessary step in the growth process for the industry. We all agreed: ‘We have an issue here. Let’s head it off at the pass and make some changes.’ And most would agree that most of the changes we’re making are positive for here and the rest of the country.”
Ricardo Baca: 303-954-1394, email@example.com or twitter.com/bruvs