High priority as pot stores open: safety, especially for kids

Seattle Times (WA) |

June 24--With state pot retail stores poised to open July 8, Gov. Jay Inslee stressed that state officials will make protecting children's health paramount as the historic industry begins selling products.

But Sharon Foster, chair of the state Liquor Control Board, said a local doctor told her he hadn't seen a spike in emergency-room visits by teens. Instead more baby boomers were coming to the ER, Foster said, probably after overdosing on pot-infused snacks, like New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who wrote about her "panting and paranoid" experience after eating too much of a candy bar in Colorado.

Foster and Inslee reiterated that state rules governing the new recreational-pot system already call for many safeguards. Packages for edible products must be child-resistant and can't contain images appealing to children, such as cartoon characters.

All pot products must have labels stating their chemical content and offering warnings about the risks of marijuana. Labels also will tell consumers about the delayed effects of edibles and urge them after their first bites to wait two hours before having more.

A rule expected to be passed by the Liquor Control Board on Wednesday would require edibles here to be scored, so a consumer can easily break off a single dose, and homogenized, so the psychoactive chemicals are spread evenly.

State officials also touted brochures and radio ads meant to educate consumers and parents. And they pointed to cheeky TV ads, borrowed from Colorado, that remind consumers they can't drive while high.

Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste said there were more than 200 officers in the state specially trained to recognize drug-impaired driving. Since the law legalizing adult possession of weed took effect in 2012, Batiste said troopers "really haven't seen a tremendous uptick" in pot-impaired driving.

Foster said about 20 retail stores would be licensed July 7, and several could open the next day. But she said those stores might not have edibles on their shelves; the state hasn't yet licensed any commercial kitchens to be used by processors.

Foster pointed to the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute's websiteas a particularly helpful place for adult consumers and parents to get accurate information.

"The website is absolutely fantastic and regularly updated with information from around the world," she said.

Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or byoung@seattletimes.com

On Twitter: @potreporter


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