Medical marijuana is now legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia, and five of those jurisdictions also have legalized recreational use (Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia). This has raised an urgent need for public health departments to develop regulations and enforcement strategies to monitor the products sold for both purposes. States’ efforts are complicated by the wide variety of marijuana products. The drug is now available as a plant to smoke or vape, as an oil to heat or injest like cough syrup, as a drink, as a pill and in a variety of edible forms.
Sam Walsh, a budtender, sets up marijuana products as the 3-D Denver Discrete Dispensary prepares to open for retail sales on January 1, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. Theo Stroomer / Getty Images
This NPR report examines efforts in Colorado to regulate ingredients, processing and preparation of marijuana products. The NPR report suggests Colorado is the state that other states are watching as they legalize their own forms of cannabis. And it’s clear the situation there is a work in progress. This Brookings Institution report from July offers a report card of sorts for the state’s regulatory infrastructure.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) is still figuring out how to handle new marijuana infused foods and drinks. And a recent investigation by a local Colorado television station and USA Today raises serious questions about how well the regulatory apparatus is actually working to protect consumers.
Aside from regulating the products on the market, public health officials are also trying to figure out how to guide consumers regarding dosage to achieve their desired goal — to get high or to manage a health condition. The CDPHE is considering a list of medical marijuana research projects for funding. But federal regulations may stand in the way of this research. The federal government still considers marijuana a drug on par with heroine and LSD, so various agencies must sign off on any experiments. So far, some scientists have had difficulty acquiring the necessary approvals.