Bargell: It’s tough to be a kid in a candy store
Special to the Daily
I didn’t expect the message. At least not exactly how it was delivered. But the pictures were what really threw me for a loop. It came a week after Halloween, when parents around Summit abandoned the mundane search for razor blades in apples, and instead were on the lookout for candies in an all-too-familiar bright-yellow wrapper, bearing the label “Buddahfinger” and painstakingly packaged to closely resemble the bar the Nestle Co. put on the market 89 years ago. The imposter, however, was one chocolate bar guaranteed to pack a marijuana-infused punch.
Labeling edibles is a hot topic for state legislators who have been investigating labeling options, an issue many consider a critical public health and safety question. Some in the industry worry that the recent labeling debate is an overreaction to a nonexistent problem. In a Nov. 1, SDN article, Elyse Gordon, owner of Better Baked, a Denver company that makes edible pot products lamented, “We’re governed to death, and people need to take responsibility for themselves,” continuing, “I don’t think anyone in the industry is looking to make products for children, and we resent this idea that people aren’t responsible for the products they bring into their home.”
I wholeheartedly agree with Gordon, on one point at least. People — including manufacturers of pot-infused products — need to take responsibility. It seems unfathomable that a manufacturer of THC-laced goodies would think it responsible to intentionally package, or mold, a product to look exactly like kids’ candy. Catchy, maybe, even good for an uptick in profits, but once it’s out of the wrapper this stuff looks exactly like the non-infused version of the gummy bear it mimics. Now, I’ve seen our girls down a package of gummies in record time. Certainly they would be the victims of a hefty sugar rush, and should be responsible for stomach pain that might ensue. Inadvertently consuming an inordinate amount of food infused with THC — the psychoactive constituent of the cannabis plant (no matter how you slice, dice or package it) — is not a lesson I hope responsible manufacturers of pot products would want my kids, or any other kids in our state, to accidentally learn. So even though we will not bring edibles into our household, it’s still reasonable to ask the industry to break the gummy-bear mold. Find one that uses a perfect example of the marijuana leaf (easy to replicate from any local T-shirt). It’s still catchy, and far more responsible.
Before everyone goes all “alcohol is just as bad as pot on me” — stop. I agree there too. But the fact that alcohol has its own panoply of vices does not give marijuana a free pass in this post-Prohibition age. In a recent article published in the Natural Products Insider, Natalie Goldstein, a spokeswoman with the Children’s Hospital in Denver, noted that since marijuana was legalized on Jan. 1, “Children’s (Hospital) Colorado has treated 13 children, six of whom became critically ill from edible marijuana.” Sure it’s an anecdotal statistic, one that the marijuana industry argues should not cause widespread panic. My guess is the parents of the 13 hospitalized kids think there must be some option other than treating the admissions as a non-event.
A presentation I recently attended was aptly titled “‘A New Conversation,’ Understanding Marijuana and the Adolescent Brain.” The hip dude from Summit’s Healthy Future Initiatives who provided the information did not engage in scare tactics. If anything, he cautioned not to give the “lecture” about drugs. Instead, he simply asked the adults present to stay informed about the developing research on how marijuana use impacts the adolescent brain, and to have an open mind about how we communicate with our kids. The statistics presented were startling. Marijuana use is the No. 1 reason why youth in Colorado seek substance-abuse treatment. Kids who have parents with a positive attitude toward marijuana use are five times more likely to use by the eighth grade.
He also explained that what’s being marketed today isn’t the same stuff covertly smoked in basements 20 years ago. The THC content in edibles in the last 20 years has tripled. For legal users that may be great news, and for some medical users it could be a godsend. For parents concerned about brain development, the implications are more disquieting. THC impacts the part of the brain that’s most important for learning and making memories in adolescents, the hippocampus. Interfering with any type of brain development during adolescence is not something a responsible industry would want to condone, even indirectly.
I recognize some people think there’s too much local coverage of the pot industry. Arguing whether the vote to legalize was “right” or “wrong” likely will only further entrench us. The fact is our Constitution has changed, and adults who use believe their legal right should be respected. In turn, please understand that marketing a high, just like it’s candy, should be hard to swallow for any influential industry. Be responsible — everyone.
The presentation “A New Conversation” is available by contacting Laurie Blackwell at LaurieB@co.summit.co.us or at (970) 668-9196.
Contact Cindy Bargell at Cindy@VisaniBargell.com.
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