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Edible marijuana flies off Colorado shelves, has regulators tied in knots

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Now that Colorado has legalized recreational marijuana, retailers have been injecting every food and drink possible with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical responsible for marijuana's psychological effects.

You name any edible product you can think of and it's likely available in Colorado in its marijuana-infused form from candies, soda, and cookies to spaghetti sauce and olive oil. Retailers even sell marijuana extracts called tincture for people who want to add a dash of high in their cooking.

"You name it, it's being made," said Julie Postlethwait, of Colorado's Division of Marijuana Enforcement.

It's no surprise retailers are banking on edible marijuana since sales became legal Jan. 1. The edibles sell like hotcakes the inventory is in short supply right now. Toni Fox, of 3D Cannabis, who sells an average of $20,000 worth of marijuana a day, said she could easily sell $40,000 a day if there is enough supply but while marijuana-infused edibles fly off retailers' shelves easily, regulators are faced with safety concerns since there is no existing regulation on the safety levels of THC infused products.

"To a large extent, we're learning a lot as we go along," said Lewis Koski, chief of Marijuana Enforcement Division, which is responsible for overseeing the medical marijuana industry. "The right thing to do, from a regulatory standpoint, is to make sure we can comprehensively regulate all these businesses and ensure the health and welfare of the citizens of Colorado."

Genifer Murray, owner of CannLabs, a facility that tests marijuana products, described how it feels to take in too much THC. "You can feel like you're dying," she said. "Your heart rate speeds up, you sweat, you can throw up. I mean, it's awful. So with edibles, it is very important that they get tested and that you know your dose."

The marijuana industry also sees a need for regulation but food regulation systems rely heavily on support from federal agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration and marijuana is still illegal under federal law.

Nonetheless, Colorado already took some steps to ensure public safety. Regulators, for instance, have adopted a system that track all marijuana plants so in case of safety issues such as a salmonella outbreak, the source of the weed can be easily traced.

New state rules will also be implemented this year that would require businesses to test their marijuana products but until these take effect, tests for mold, food-borne pathogens and potency still remains voluntary.

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