Food Safety Regulations Needed for Products Containing Marijuana

food safetyStrict food safety regulations are needed as states like Colorado have started selling products containing marijuana. The state rules now allow for recreational use of marijuana. Pot stores are opening once they go through the rigorous licensing process. Food and drinks are infused with different levels of THC, the chemical in pot that makes people feel high. The problem is that there is no consistency. People generally pay more for the same item with a higher amount of marijuana in it. From truffles to sparking drinks, marijuana laced foods are becoming big business.

While those who favor the products appreciate the feeling of being high without having to deal with the clouds of smoke or the side effect of coughing, others are alarmed at the idea. Parents, teachers and doctors are concerned about the food getting into the hands of children, despite the child-proof packaging that is currently required. The attractive appearance makes the foods appealing to kids. School leaders have found it necessary to take a no-nonsense approach to the products and ban them from school premises.

Though the use of marijuana is still illegal on a federal level, voters opted to legalize the use of recreational marijuana in both Colorado and Washington. This is uncharted territory. Rules that are set in place now could be carried over and accepted as general practice in other states in the future.

Colorado began legally selling recreational pot to adults on January 1. Purchases are limited to one ounce. Because of the Clean Indoor Air Act, users are not allowed to smoke in public places, not even in the stores that sell it. This makes food products containing pot even more attractive to some users. The state has already issued 34 licenses to marijuana product manufacturers. What they lack is a clear set of guidelines for food safety. Regulations are needed to set the standard across the board to limit the amount of pot used in products and oversee the operation from idea development to sale.

The Marijuana Enforcement Division is responsible for setting such rules, but the small department is swamped with an unprecedented amount of work due to the recent legalization of marijuana. It was initially started to handle medical marijuana issues. Now it is responsible for food safety concerns related to products containing marijuana. Help is needed as far as regulations go. On a larger scale, federal agencies would have a hand in the situation. As of now, manufacturers are responsible for their own labeling and expiration dates, with no strict policies in place.

New rules are set to go into effect in late 2014, requiring food manufacturers who make marijuana products to have them tested at an independent lab for safety. Another safety precaution that Colorado is taking is to track the marijuana from plant to product to help ensure safe practices and be able to go back to the source if a certain product causes an illness.

Federal authorities can step in to control the situation if issues arise. Though marijuana is not permitted under federal law, strict regulations are needed for products that contain marijuana. These products may eventually be regulated by food safety guidelines set by the FDA or a similar organization.

By Tracy Rose


NY Times