By Daniel Wallis
DENVER (Reuters) - Activists in Colorado called on Thursday for the fast implementation of rules requiring marijuana-infused edibles be clearly distinguishable from regular products when removed from their original packaging.
Colorado and Washington this year became the first U.S. states to allow recreational sales of the drug to adult, and much of the public debate has since centered on regulations for edibles such as pot cookies, chocolates and drinks.
Members of Smart Colorado, a non-profit aimed at informing young people about the risks from marijuana, told a state law enforcement meeting in the city of Golden that there were many examples of accidental pot consumption, including by children.
A bill sponsored by Smart Colorado, which passed with bipartisan support, requires that by Jan. 1, 2016 the state adopt rules requiring pot edibles "be shaped, stamped, colored, or otherwise marked with a standard symbol indicating that it contains marijuana" and is not for consumption by children.
Group co-founder Diane Carson said in a statement that the purpose of the legislation was to address the "incredible risks, uncertainties, and confusion" surrounding products that she said are too often presented in a "highly deceptive" way.
"We want to reduce the number of accidental ingestions, especially among children, and give teenagers and adults the tools and support they need to protect themselves," she said.
Last month a state task force unveiled proposed rules to limit potency levels in marijuana edibles, require clearer labeling and health warnings, and assure youngsters cannot get their hands on them by making child-proof packaging mandatory.
The activists say marijuana is infused into, sprayed onto, and injected into over 200 kinds of edible products including candy, liquids, granola, cookies, and crackers, and that edibles account for about 40 percent of the state's retail pot market.
The topic has been particularly controversial given the potential of products such as brownies and candy for attracting children and pot novices, with possibly dangerous consequences.
Colorado lawmakers in May charged the task force, which is comprised of pot industry representatives, health professionals and law enforcement officials, with drafting new rules after two deaths possibly linked to pot-infused foods made headlines.
In a bid to raise standards, a national marijuana industry group last month launched the first ever food safety basics course for producers and retailers of pot edibles.
(Reporting by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Sandra Maler)