DENVER — Alarmed by booming sales of highly potent edible marijuana products, Colorado regulators have drafted an emergency rule making it easier for new users to tell how much pot they're eating.
The result? Weaker pot brownies and cookies on store shelves, and new packaging requirements.
A draft of the emergency rules, obtained Thursday by The Associated Press before their public release, requires Colorado's makers of edible pot to physically demark their products so that consumers can "intuitively determine" how much constitutes a dose of marijuana's intoxicating ingredient, THC.
Colorado's rules already require edible pot to be sold in "servings" of 10 milligrams of THC. But many consumers have complained they can't tell what a serving is and eat too much of a heavily-dosed product, leading to many reports of unpleasant experiences, including nausea and feelings of paralysis. Those stronger-dosed edibles are holdovers from the medical pot marketplace, where sellers say consumers who have built up strong tolerances won't buy anything that has a dosage less than 100 milligrams of THC.
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote in June of going into a "hallucinatory state" after visiting Colorado and eating too much pot candy. And an edible pot cookie has been blamed for the death earlier this year of a college student who ate more than six times the suggested dose and then fell to his death from a hotel balcony.
A spokeswoman for the Colorado agency that prepared the rules couldn't comment on them because they have not been made public. But Natriece Bryant of the state Department of Revenue confirmed that the rules take effect in November if approved by the governor, as expected. The final rule could differ from the draft obtained by AP.
Marijuana industry advocates who helped draft the rules said they'll help consumers.
"The problem of people overdoing it with edibles, accidentally, is going to be very much taken care of with these new rules," said Mike Elliott of the Marijuana Industry Group, which represents several large Denver dispensaries.
The draft rules also set new packaging requirements for products that can't easily be divided or perforated — such as liquids or granolas. Gone is the requirement that pot-infused juices and sodas come in opaque packaging.
Instead, the liquids would have to be sold in transparent bottles surrounded by opaque packaging. The bottles would need to allow consumers to tell how much they've drunk, so they could look like cough-syrup bottles, with dividing lines on the side.
Solids that can't be easily demarked, such as granola, could not exceed 10 mg of active THC per package. So instead of a big bag, they'd have to be divided into single-serve packages.
A pot-infused cookie maker who has seen the emergency rules said they'll lead to milder products on shelves.
Julie Berliner of SweetGrass Kitchens said she's planning to stop making cookies stronger than 10 mg of THC per piece, at least for the recreational market.
"That's the way the industry will be going, where each piece is 10 (mg of THC) and not something you'll have to measure yourself," she said.
The Department of Revenue starts work Friday on a bigger proposal — requiring edible pot products to be colored or stamped to indicate they contain pot. Lawmakers have expressed alarm that marijuana treats look just like their straight-laced counterparts when out of the package. But it's not clear how to give edible pot products a distinct appearance — while still looking like something people would eat.