Pitkin County officials discuss marijuana edibles
Pitkin County commissioners are concerned about how marijuana edibles might be manufactured and marketed in their own backyard, as well as how they can be kept from children.
Commissioners hosted a far-ranging discussion Tuesday that was prompted by an application for a kitchen at the Aspen Business Center that would produce marijuana edibles if the board approves. Participants included those who work with youth, health officials, law enforcement and environmental health officials.
However, with just one marijuana dispensary in unincorporated Pitkin County, commissioners also recognized the discussion should include officials from the city of Aspen, which has licensed seven marijuana dispensaries.
“This needs to be a city-county discussion,” said Commissioner Rachel Richards.
Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said he thinks the situation around marijuana legalization has improved by “leaps and bounds,” though he is concerned about edibles being consumed by children. He said he especially doesn’t like marijuana-infused products that feature packaging made to resemble real products like Reese’s peanut butter cups.
Such products seem unnecessary, DiSalvo said, when people can get the same dose of marijuana by simply taking a pill.
“Why do you want to make it attractive to a child?” he said, adding that commissioners could create a law saying such products can’t be sold in Pitkin County.
DiSalvo also said he’d like to see a program for marijuana dispensary employees that works the same way as the class restaurant workers are required to take regarding alcohol. He also said he’d like to see the city of Aspen spend some of the more than $200,000 in marijuana tax revenue it received in 2015 on youth programs.
Commissioner Patti Clapper agreed with DiSalvo and said she like to see a program like the restaurant worker alcohol class for dispensary employees enacted with some of the marijuana revenue collected by the city.
Clapper also said she was concerned about the candy look-alikes, but extended her concern to the ever-expanding universe of marijuana-infused food products like beef jerky.
Richards said it seems like marijuana food manufacturers are taking a mind-altering substance and wrapping it in “fun” and “harmless” things like Pop Tarts.
“It becomes a treat, a sweet,” she said. “Maybe they should just put food dye in all of it. It’s not really a cookie. That’s not the reason you’re eating it.”
Clapper said the popularity of edibles may be related to the fact that people cannot legally smoke marijuana in public.
“It’s a way people can do it and not get in trouble,” she said.
DiSalvo agreed, saying it might be better to have such a place where a “budtender” can act like a bartender and cut someone off who’s had too much.
Lori Mueller, executive director of YouthZone, which deals mainly with kids who have gotten in trouble, said putting marijuana in a gummi bear sends youth a message that the drug is “not a big deal at all.”
“Most kids who come to YouthZone are marijuana users,” she said. “Most kids are getting their marijuana from their parents.”
In fact, she said the Roaring Fork Valley has the highest level of marijuana use among kids in the entire state of Colorado.
“We need the community to say it’s not OK for (kids) to use marijuana,” Mueller said. “They’re not getting that now. They’re getting that it’s no big deal.”
DiSalvo sang the praises of the Valley Marijuana Council, which he co-founded as a resource for marijuana-related issues. And Commissioner George Newman encouraged DiSalvo and the council to come up with specific proposals and bring them to commissioners for possible adoption.
“Pitkin County needs to lead by example,” Newman said.
Another issue to look at in the future is educating parents about marijuana, Richards said.
The application for the ABC kitchen that wants to produce marijuana-related edibles is still pending, said Jeanette Jones, the board’s assistant. However, a woman who wanted to partner with the applicant and produce marijuana-infused bubblegum has dropped out of the project, Jones said.
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