Soapbox

How California’s new pot regulations put kids at risk

Medical marijuana prescription vials are filled at a dispensary in Los Angeles. A co-author of Proposition 64, which legalized recreational cannabis for adult use, is warning that proposed regulations will be unsafe for children.
Medical marijuana prescription vials are filled at a dispensary in Los Angeles. A co-author of Proposition 64, which legalized recreational cannabis for adult use, is warning that proposed regulations will be unsafe for children. AP file

Two years ago, Californians voted overwhelmingly to decriminalize and regulate cannabis through Proposition 64. As a physician and one of the co-authors of the measure, it is critical to me to ensure that the new, legal system includes safeguards for our children, including the toughest child-resistant packaging requirements in the nation.

State regulators deserve tremendous credit for implementing emergency regulations to get the complex system up and running in record time and to follow voters’ intent. The new Bureau of Cannabis Control has spent thousands of hours meeting with stakeholders and experts to draft policies that will shape the industry for decades to come.

Unfortunately, in the final proposed regulations, the bureau proposed a policy change that will unintentionally weaken one of the core principles of Proposition 64. The regulations do not require child-resistant packaging for individual doses, only child-proof bags for the entire purchase. This is like saying a grocery bag should be child-resistant, but not the cap on a bottle of prescription drugs.

Opinion

This change undermines consumer safety, exposes minors to accidental ingestion and serious health risks and reneges on promises in Proposition 64. According to state poison control officials, accidental ingestion of marijuana by minors is increasing; nearly half of reports in the last year involved children 5 or younger.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission requires child-resistant primary packaging not just for Schedule 1 drugs such as cannabis but also lower-risk drugs. Since when is California OK with weaker consumer protections than the federal government?

Donald Lyman.jpg
Donald Lyman

Other states and Canada also require child-resistant primary packaging. So the proposed regulations weaken California’s standing as a nationwide leader for the responsible implementation of cannabis legalization.

The cost averages less than 25 cents per package – hardly a barrier, and well worth the cost given the stakes. I encourage the Bureau of Cannabis Control to act quickly and decisively by revising the regulations to require child-resistant primary packaging.

Donald Lyman, a physician in Sacramento, was a co-author of Proposition 64. He can be contacted at donald.o.lyman@gmail.com.

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