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Health officials, industry group try to take bite out of pot-infused edibles

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Oregon Health Authority officials are warning people to be careful what they eat when edibles hit the market June 2.SALEM — Oregon health officials are urging novice marijuana users to start slow when pot-infused edibles are introduced in the state’s legal recreational market June 2.

Since Oct. 1, anyone 21 and older may purchase a limited amount of cannabis flowers, seeds and starter plants. The Legislature early this year added edibles, extracts and non-psychoactive lotions, balms and oils to that list.

“We are concerned about folks who are novice users,” said Jonathan Modie, spokesman for the Oregon Health Authority. “We are concerned about calls into the poison center, not just children but adults.”

EO MEDIA GROUPHealth authorities adopted temporary rules last month on the sale of the new products. The rules take effect June 2 and expire Dec. 31, when the Oregon Liquor Control Commission is scheduled to take over regulation of the recreational marijuana program.

Temporary rules restrict sales to one edible product and one extract per day to each customer. An edible product may contain no more than 15 milligrams of Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive chemical in pot. Extracts are limited to 1,000 milligrams. Customers may buy an unlimited number of topical products.

The 15-milligram limit on edibles might be too potent for some people, health officials said.

“What we are telling the industry is they should divide it up into 5-milligram servings,” said Andre Ourso, manager of the state’s medical marijuana program. “At that point, we would recommend that they label it and say that it contains three servings.”

Proposed permanent rules, effective Jan. 1, limit serving sizes to 5 milligrams of THC. Up to 10 servings will be allowed in each package. The proposed rules also impose stricter specifications for child-resistant packaging.

“Part of the reason we chose the 15-milligram limit for the temporary rules is that labs can’t test for that low of a concentration without it being very expensive and can’t even give a good confidence level that, that is what it actually contains,” Ourso said, referring to the 5-milligram amount. “In proposed permanent rules, the labs will test the 50 milligrams in the package but won’t be required to test each serving size.”

When eating the drug, it can take one to four hours to feel effects, he said. “If you aren’t feeling the effects after an hour, wait a couple of more hours, before consuming more,” Ourso said. “We would caution people to start out slow.”

Edible decals

The Oregon Responsible Edibles Council has launched a public education campaign designed to guide new users through eating marijuana-infused foods for the first time. The group’s Try Five Campaign advises consumers to eat no more than 5 milligrams of THC for their first experience.

“Fifteen milligrams is definitely going to be too much for people who are unfamiliar with edibles, so we were really glad we were able to launch the campaign before edibles became available,” said David McNicoll, council founder and owner of Dave’s Space Cakes in Eugene. The council has a website and has been distributing posters to put up in dispensaries and T-shirts for so-called “bud tenders” to wear when they’re selling products.

“Everyone in the edibles industry should be behind this campaign because when there is overconsumption of edibles and people have bad effects it taints the industry as a whole,” said Leah D’Ambrosio, edibles council member and owner of Sconed in Portland.

D’Ambrosio said even for some regular marijuana users, eating 15 milligrams of pot can be too much. “For someone who doesn’t smoke and is not used to ingesting marijuana, I advise eating 5 milligrams or even half of that just to see how it hits you,” she said.

The processor, who makes pot-infused toffee and is planning on soon debuting scones — her company’s namesake — also produces edible decals. The decals are marked with a green cross and can be attached or baked onto marijuana-infused foods. The health authority already requires processors to add a symbol to packages showing that food contains marijuana, but the edible decal is meant to alert consumers that a food item contains marijuana, even after the product has been removed from its package, D’Ambrosio said. All of the Sconed sweets carry the symbol, and D’Ambrosio also is starting to market the decals to other processors.

“It’s just another safeguard after the product is out of the package,” she said.

By Jill Rehkopf Smith
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