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Lawmakers hear testimony on food, drinks containing medical marijuana

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Law enforcement officers urged state lawmakers Tuesday to ban or restrict the sale of medical-marijuana food and drink products, while cannabis advocates pleaded to keep them legal. The officers said the products, which include pot-infused brownies, candies and chocolate bars, are appealing to children and are showing up at schools.
“These aren’t trivial incidents,” Jim Gerhardt, a member of the North Metro Drug Task Force, told lawmakers. “A number of children have been hospitalized because of consuming these products.”
But medical-marijuana business owners and activists said the products are vital for patients who can’t or don’t want to smoke cannabis. If they’re getting into the hands of children, the advocates said, it’s not the products’ fault.
“This isn’t a pot issue,” said Jessica LeRoux, who owns a company that makes marijuana-infused cheesecakes and other items. “This is a parenting issue.”
The clash came during a public hearing for a bill that, in its current form, would ban the sale of any medical- marijuana-infused food or drink item. However, Rep. Cindy Acree, an Aurora Republican who is sponsoring the bill, said she intends to propose amendments that would keep the products legal but impose strict labeling, packaging and marketing requirements on them.
“This bill is not disputing that there are medical needs that people are relying on this product for,” Acree said. “What this bill is about is safety of patients as well as for other members of society.”
The House Judiciary Committee, the first stop for the bill, only heard public testimony Tuesday. The committee will debate amendments and vote on House Bill 1250 at another hearing.
Medical-marijuana-infused products, known in the industry by the generic term “edibles,” have exploded as a market niche in Colorado and now encompass a broad range of items. There are lozenges, teas, colas, lollipops, ice cream bars, salad dressings and numerous varieties of pastries, from standard brownies to organic chocolate coconut cups.
More than 300 businesses have applied for a marijuana-infused products manufacturing license with the state. Each license comes with a $1,250 application fee.
Critics of the products Tuesday focused on several not-so-medical- sounding items, passing around pictures of boxes of “Pot Tarts” pastries and “Cap’n Chronic” cereal. Marijuana advocates, however, said they had never seen items like that sold in Colorado dispensaries and questioned whether they actually existed.
Acree said her amendments would require edibles to be in opaque, tamper-proof packaging and would also allow the state Revenue Department to create rules banning edibles advertising that tries to appeal to kids.

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