Can Oregon Set ‘Green Standard’ for Edibles Industry?

In Oregon, adults over the age of 21 have been able to purchase recreational marijuana in dispensaries around the state since Oct. 1, 2015. In the counties where this is an acceptable practice, the revenue collected has been soaring beyond expectations. In fact, within the first week of legalization, stores in Oregon sold $11 million in product, more than doubling Colorado’s $5 million and surging past Washington’s $2 million.

Oregon is certainly setting a high bar for what a profitable and well-regulated recreational market could look like for the industry; however, there are still a few features of the market in Washington that recreational customers have an appetite for that remain to be filled. One significant difference is that edibles have been approved for recreational sale on the other side of the Columbia River Gorge since the fall of 2014, meanwhile Oregonians remain without edibles for the next few weeks.

When Oregon adopted early sales back in October, edibles, tinctures and oils were still barred from being sold. More time was needed to smooth out the regulations in order to avoid some of the setbacks and challenges that faced the rollouts of the edible market in Colorado and Washington. This will soon change as a result of the comprehensive regulatory framework approved by the OLCC at the end of October. These temporary regulations will go into effect at the beginning of 2016 and are intended to be altered after a six-month period of the commission receiving recommendations.

Within the expansive, 78-page document, there is content that details the rules regarding packaging, licensing, serving size, and dosage regarding retail edibles. Under these rules, changes to product packaging must be approved by the liquor commission. New flavors and changes to flavors must also be approved by the commission. The maximum serving size in Oregon will be 5 mg of THC with a maximum of 50 mg for an entire package. In order to prevent children from accidentally consuming multiple servings, there is an added stipulation that the package must be resealable and childproof.

One crucial difference between the unfolding of an edible market in Oregon and other states is the dosage and packaging size. Oregon’s cap of 5 mg is half that of Colorado and Washington. In the Joint Interim Committee on Marijuana Legalization that met on Nov. 16, Priscilla Lewis, Deputy Director of the Public Health Division of the Oregon Health Authority, discussed some of the updates to new marijuana legalization. In particular, she spoke about some of the reasons for stricter serving sizes.

The 5 mg serving and 50 mg package was developed based on suggestions from our Science Advisory Committee which looked at serving size in Colorado and Washington. Essentially, they adopted a standard which is half of the limits of those two states. The issue of serving size has received substantial public interest particularly interest from the pediatric community over the concern about possible ingestion of edibles, particularly by children. By adopting this serving size and total serving size that is half of Colorado’s experience or Washington’s we feel that we have set a safe limit, but we will continue to monitor this closely with our pediatric community.

It is clear the primary motivation is to keep edible products away from youth.

Some people are concerned that despite the implementation of these regulations, the difficulty in enforcing them will be a detriment to the viability of an edibles market. Scott Winkels of the League of Oregon Cities also made comments on edible regulations at the Joint Interim Committee.

I found one marijuana candy shaped like a robot that clearly is outside the scope of what is allowed. My understanding is that when the business was contacted about this particular item their solution was to put more sugar on it to obscure the shape. I don’t think that was the sort of answer that anyone was looking for.

Many are anxious about safety in the edibles market and some cities and counties have already imposed bans on recreational sales, drawing heightened attention to this particular issue. “Ensuring that these items are in compliance with what the legislature has required is going to be paramount in ensuring cities are going to be comfortable moving forward,” Winkels explained. Moving forward, in this case, could mean lifting the bans that are currently allowed to be imposed by cities and counties where 55 percent or more of their constituents voted against the passing of Measure 91.

The edibles market needs to unfold smoothly and safely to set an example for the cities and counties in Oregon. In fact, as much of the rest of the country is looking to Oregon to set the “green standard” for legal state markets, the success of these new measures will be considered with a watchful eye.

Tori is an artist, activist, curator, and writer from Miami living in Portland.

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