Colorado is working toward a safer marijuana industry.
In March, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill for packaging and labeling requirements on medical marijuana edibles.
The new law requires medicinal edibles to meet the same requirements that already exist for recreational marijuana, including child-resistant packaging.
“We feel child-resistant packaging is the logical implementation to prevent kids from getting into these marijuana products,” says Dr. George Sam Wang, a pediatric emergency room physician at Children’s Hospital Colorado.
Wang was part of the team that crafted and supported the bill. The law requires warning labels that the product is dangerous and to keep out of reach from children. The law restricts mass marketing campaigns, and packaging must not appeal to anyone younger than 21. Packages must meet child-resistant requirements by the Consumer Product Safety Commission under the Poison Prevention Packaging Act.
Wang says child-resistant packaging has been a proven method for keeping kids out of unsafe products. Almost all pharmaceuticals and household products meet the standards.
To be child-resistant certified, no more than 20 percent of 200 children can open the package within 10 minutes. At the same time, 90 percent of 100 adults ages 50 to 70 must be able to open it and close it within five minutes.
Prior to the new law, marijuana edibles only had to be sold in a child-resistant package OR warn to keep out of a child’s reach. Some medical marijuana dispensaries already meet the requirements while others are making changes to comply with the new law.
Wang hopes the stricter regulations will cut down the number of pediatric emergency room visits for unintentional marijuana ingestion.
In their 2009-2011 study, he and colleagues noticed a significant change in the number of children who had accidentally eaten marijuana. Until 2009, they saw very few visits, but starting at the end of 2009 they have averaged one to two a month.
Unlike recreational marijuana, there is no restriction on the THC content in medical marijuana so concentrations vary greatly among products. A single marijuana edible may be worth five doses.
In the emergency room, Wang has seen symptoms vary from sleepiness and unbalance to comatose and difficulty breathing.
“Sometimes parents will admit there is marijuana in the home but they didn’t know anything was missing, and other times they have no idea where they got it,” Wang says.
Parents need to properly store marijuana edibles out of reach and out of sight, and not next to non-marijuana foods, according to Wang.
Educating parents is important for a safer industry, he says. For parents who have children old enough to discuss the risks of marijuana, he encourages approaching it like a discussion about any other adult product. “This is for mom and dad and not for children,” and “This can be harmful and dangerous for kids” are a few phrases he suggests.
“I think this is a great start for Colorado, and I think it’s great the industry is supporting keeping it away from kids,” he says. To help discuss the risks of marijuana with your child, use our kid-friendly diagram showing how marijuana affects the body called “Talk to Your Child About Marijuana.”