Enough already with the marijuana treats

These fledgling days of legal marijuana in Colorado have the whole country atwitter. The interest ranges from novelty to policy, with no small helping of money in the mix – that which can be made by retailers and the state alike, and how then to handle it.

Rarely does a day go by that news coverage lacks a marijuana-related story, which makes sense given the laundry list of issues legal pot has wrought upon the state and its lawmakers at the capitol and in localities. The net effect is marijuana is very much a presence here; whether each of us uses it, its emergence as a newly legal substance commands attention.

As such, marijuana should be taken seriously in terms of how it is marketed. When marijuana was regulated solely as a “medicine,” somehow it became common practice to sell tasty treats infused with the drug. Rather amazingly, gummy bears, lozenges, cookies, brownies and chocolate chews are now acceptable vehicles for administering one’s medication. That may have been fine – kind of – when there was at least a veneer, however sheer, that marijuana was not simply being used for getting high. But who was kidding whom?

The medicinal value of marijuana notwithstanding, I would venture a majority of people with medical marijuana cards were at least as interested in the drug’s psychotropic qualities as any health benefits it may have. That they can derive those benefits – health or otherwise – by eating a lollipop or scoop of ice cream is convenient but makes it a little difficult to take the whole medicine claim seriously. Imagine taking your Cialis as a candy bar or Claritin in a cookie. The notion is ridiculous.

It is also dangerous, and now that the marijuana market has opened to all comers age 21 and older, these tasty edibles are everywhere. Not surprisingly, incidents of children accidentally ingesting high doses of marijuana have increased. And that says nothing of older children who are not accidentally ingesting similarly high doses.

Sweet treats packed with a pot punch suggest a certain level of harmlessness that is appealing to kids. It hearkens back to the days of Joe Camel and Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers – or candy-flavored cigarettes. These things are appealing to kids, plain and simple. And in an environment where pot is a dominant subject of public discourse – wherein many people are downright giddy about its being available for open purchase – some measured counterweight to the frenzy is appropriate.

The state is rightly wrestling with how to handle edible marijuana in the recreational market. As regulators and edible producers discuss the matter, the focus is on how high each treat’s potency can be and how the snack should be wrapped.

They are missing the point.

Regardless of how small the serving, packaged candy infused with marijuana is not a particularly responsible way of distributing the substance – nor is it necessary. For those who prefer not to smoke their marijuana, there are pills. The net effect is the same as eating a brownie, but the potential for the stuff to fall into the wrong hands is lessened. Temptation is diminished somewhat when you remove the sprinkles and chocolate.

Of course, unspilling the milk is neither easy nor particularly likely to occur. The edible pot industry grew handsomely during the prerecreational years of medical-only dispensaries. That was a mistake on the part of Colorado regulators that will now have implications in the recreational marketplace and beyond.

Edible producers are justified in pushing back against restrictions on their products. The shame – farce, even – is the products were allowed to become so prevalent in the first place.

Megan Graham is a Herald editorial writer and policy analyst. Reach her at meg@durangoherald.com.

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