Half Baked? Multimillion-dollar marijuana food industry deals with debate over pot potency

Half Baked? Multimillion-dollar marijuana food industry deals with debate over pot potency

Editor’s note: Oregon has quietly become yet another American state to legalize marijuana use. If the discussion below is not underway in the Canadian government now, it will be very soon, as our politicians grapple with the challenge to create our laws and standards for the legal use of the intoxicant for the first time since it was criminalized in Canada in 1923.

When it comes to marijuana-infused edibles, Oregon wants you to know that, like perfume, a little goes a long way.

Snacks and treats made with cannabis are not only tasty but potent. Oregon regulators have come up with rules that would make these products half as strong as what Colorado and Washington allow in part to protect novices, including those whose most recent experience with the drug dates to the Nixon administration.

Oregon and Alaska are part of a second generation of states with legal marijuana markets that see Colorado and Washington not as models but as a cautionary tales about the appeal and pitfalls of cannabis-infused drinks, sweets and foods. In Colorado, home to a robust edibles market, some rookie consumers had high-profile and, in at least one case, tragic experiences after consuming food made with cannabis. Overall, marijuana-related calls to poison centers increased after legalization in both states.

So Oregon has proposed setting its sights lower, hoping weaker marijuana products would ultimately protect two groups: inexperienced consumers who eat too much too quickly only to feel sick and impaired, and preschoolers who end up high, disoriented and, in some cases, hospitalized after snacking on their parents’ pot-infused treats.

“We wrestled with this for quite a bit, trying to figure out what the right answer is,” said Michael Tynan, a policy officer with the Oregon Health Authority, speaking at a meeting of the agency’s rules advisory committee on marijuana earlier this month. “We are not an economic agency. We are the public health division. The Legislature gave us the responsibility to protect public health.
“That is the goal and the lens that my bosses and my colleagues are going to apply to this.” he said.

But advocates for the marijuana industry said Oregon’s proposal is an overreaction that threatens the livelihoods of chocolatiers, bakers, ice cream makers, drink producers and others who infuse their products with cannabis. Customers, they argue, aren’t going to be as interested in buying weaker treats or stocking up on chocolates to get high.

Keeping young kids from these products is a priority, say marijuana industry advocates, but limiting their potency does little to address that.

“I mean, a lot of this is really just proper parenting,” said John Bayes, a longtime grower and owner of Green Bodhi, a medical cannabis business in Eugene and Portland.

(The Oregonian)

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