Edibles on display at a marijuana dispensary

Last week I talked about the political importance of getting good rules for recreational marijuana edibles to avoid future regulatory overreach, so I thought I would lay out what set of tough but fair regulations could look like. These principles should significantly reduce the risk of accidental consumption or over consumption, but will still provide consumer choice.

1) Proper marijuana labeling – The packaging should clearly indicate the product contains marijuana, list in milligrams the amount of the main cannabinoids in each individual serving and in the entire package. It should also clearly specify what is a recommended dose for a normal person who is not a frequent user.

There should be zero confusion about whether a package contains marijuana in a standardized way.  Listing strength allows people to consume responsibly.

2) One dose per individual component of a package – Each recommended dose should be very clearly defined and separated within a package if it contains more than one recommended dose. No one would should be expected to break apart or divide a single item just to get one recommended dose.

For example there shouldn’t be a prepackaged marijuana granola bar that contains four recommended doses. This needlessly increases the possibility of someone mistakenly consuming way more than they intended to by eating the whole bar. It should be no more than one dose to each individual item. Most companies won’t even need to significantly change their recipe or package size to comply, they would just need to separate their four dose bars into four separately wrapped smaller bars within the same general packaging. Roughly like how Twix is sold as two small bars but in one container.

3) Random auditing of edibles РThere should be random independent auditing to make sure all edibles contain roughly the level of cannabinoids advertised.

Clearly, under reporting the amount of THC a product contains can result in accidental over consumption — but so could over reporting. If someone is accustomed to using a brand which was significantly falsifying how much THC their products contains, they could also end up consuming more than intended to if the switch to another brand with correctly labeled THC content.

4) Labeling out of the main package – Each individual edible should have a clear standardized market, such as “THC,” directly on it to indicate it contains marijuana even if removed from the packaging. This mark can be a food coloring stamp or an indentation. In addition separately wrapped units within a package should be labeled as containing marijuana.

The risk of someone removing a marijuana edible from its packaging and then another person unknowingly consuming it is very small, but it has become a political concern. A small mark which won’t change the flavor of the product is a very tiny sacrifice to make voters, politicians, and regulators more comfortable.

5) No marketing on a package that might appeals to children – Things like cartoon images shouldn’t be allowed on items that contain marijuana.

Keeping marijuana away from children is a top concern for voters on the issue. These are products for adults and the packaging should got out of its way to reflect that.

6) No confusing shapes – No marijuana edible should be made to look like a name brand candy or drink. In addition no edible should come in shapes, such as animals or fruits, that might appeal to children.

It is important to remember that a vast majority of voters and politicians don’t consume marijuana, so they are not overly concerned about the preferences and convenience of users. If marijuana edibles are viewed as poorly regulated, needlessly risky or too appealing to children, local or eventual federal regulations could overreact with an outright ban. It could even hurt efforts to spread legalization to other states or cause federal law enforcement to get involved.

While the dangers of accidental consumption or over consumption are relatively minor, you need only to look at current marijuana law in most states to see marijuana policy is not often driven by emotion and not rational decision making.

Proactively supporting rules to do everything reasonably possible to alleviate concerns about accidental consumption or over consumption for recreational marijuana edibles seems the smartest political and policy strategy to prevent opponents of legalization from trying to exploit minor issues.

Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy