We’ve blogged before on the dangers posed to pets by marijuana, and on how absolutely critical it is that cannabis sellers label their marijuana and theirmarijuana edibles, but Maureen Dowd’s recent New York Times column prompts us to once again urge processors, retails, and medical cannabis dispensaries to label and package with the utmost care.

Dowd writes of a recent trip to Denver, during which she sampled a cannabis candy bar. Finding nothing on the label about the appropriate serving size, Dowd “nibbled,” and “when nothing happened, nibbled some more.” Having unwittingly over-consumed (she was later told such a candy bar is meant to be cut into 16 pieces), Dowd soon found herself in an eight-hour hallucinogenic haze.

Nobody wants this result, least of all those in the legal cannabis industry. Dowd spoke with Andrew Freedman, Colorado’s director of marijuana coordination, who acknowledged the overdose horror stories:

There are way too many stories of people not understanding how much they’re eating. With liquor, people understand what they’re getting themselves into. But that doesn’t exist right now for new users in the market. It would behoove the industry to create a more pleasant experience for people.

Exactly. Those who want to cut corners, or don’t want to go to the expense of creating more informative labels and including comprehensive dosage/serving size information are hurting themselves and the rest of the industry. Smart cannabis businesses are making sure that their product labeling is clear and cogent and complies with all local, state and federal laws. Most importantly, they are creating product with consistent ingredients.

Habitual stoners will always be around, but if pot shops want to attract the tourists and the generally curious, those people need to feel safe using the product. Which brings us to the second point – education.

When medical marijuana was first legalized, the successful dispensaries knew that patients were going to need help choosing what strain to use and how to ingest it. Now that marijuana is becoming legal for recreational use, the need for knowledgeable budtenders to assist consumers in making appropriate choices has only increased. This is especially true when it comes to edibles. Just because everyone has experience eating doesn’t mean everyone knows what to do with edible cannabis.

As we pointed out before, in Pot Puppies? Let’s Talk Labeling and Packaging, labeling of your product is serious business:

If you are producing, distributing or selling pot, you need to think long and hard about where your liability could lie and you better start labeling your product accordingly. Is your product clear on its content and on its ingredients? Is it clear on its recommended serving size and is the content of each serving? Do all of your products and packages and labelings comply with all applicable federal, state and local product, packaging and labeling laws? If you are producing or selling medibles, are you familiar with and in compliance with all that entails? Not only can doing it wrong lead to legal problems, it also can damage your reputation.

Just by way of one graphic example, we had a client who was making a medible with peanuts and nowhere mentioning that its product contained that ingredient. Now just imagine for a minute what might have happened had that product been consumed by someone with a severe peanut allergy.

If you are in the medible business, you are in the food business and you must act accordingly. The labeling and packaging issues stemming from cannabis candy products give us cannabis business lawyers nightmares.

You should not be selling your product without first making sure that both it and its packaging and its labeling comply with all cannabis/food/drink and labeling/packaging requirements. You should also make sure that you are doing whatever you can to give yourself a fighting chance in any potential product liability lawsuit. On top of all this, you should, if possible, have insurance in place to protect you against any contingencies.

Labeling and waivers can go a long way toward reducing a marijuana business’s liability risk. But the bigger picture is that for this industry to succeed, its product needs to move progressively away from scary and taboo towards normalized and regulated. That means industry participants should be sharing their knowledge on dosages and put those dosages on the label.
  • martha

    I had a friend who was given a brownie recently to “help her sleep.” The paramedics were called that night and she ended up in the ER two days later because she couldn’t come down. The ER doc was furious, saying he sees at least 2-3 marijuana overdoses a day now, and he wasn’t even at Harborview. He used to be pro medical-marijuana, but now believes that many medibles don’t even contain plant medicine anymore – the butane and CO2 extraction methods turn MJ into just another drug that is too easily abused. I know some people will disagree, but when I started mentioning this to other friends, I was astounded at the number of stories I was told about people eating medibles recently and ending up sick, terrified or just out of their head. Although many of the I-502 regulations seem onerous, I am glad that there is such an emphasis on testing and labeling. Otherwise marijuana could end up with an undeserved bad reputation that could set back all our efforts.

    • muraco kyashna-tocha

      we in Washington State are not checking ANY I502 product for pesticides – you are totally wrong about the state’s emphasis on testing.