Colorado marijuana edibles makers bracing for new standards

By Kristen Nichols

Colorado’s ban on edible marijuana products shaped like animals, humans or fruits takes effect Oct. 1 – but manufacturers say they’re prepared for the change.

The 2016 law, which bans certain shapes of edibles, was spurred by concerns children may be attracted to gummies or hard lozenges in forms associated with common candies.

“Children are more likely to consume products that resemble familiar foods,” Colorado’s chief medical officer, Dr. Larry Wolk, testified before legislators who eventually revamped the law.

Colorado manufacturers seem prepared for the change.

“I honestly think only a handful of companies were affected” by the law, said Nancy Whiteman, co-owner of Wana Brands, a Boulder, Colorado-based maker of fruit-flavored gummies and other marijuana edibles.

Wana Brand’s candies come in square shapes, so the company didn’t have to change any manufacturing processes.

“We don’t think it was a big deal for most people,” Whiteman said.

The Colorado law expressly exempts the marijuana-leaf shape, meaning that leaf-shaped edibles like those produced by Boulder-based Americanna are OK.

Making laws more palatable

Colorado’s ban on animal shapes was a compromise of sorts.

Some marijuana critics wanted Colorado to join Washington state and require manufacturers to have their edible marijuana products approved by state regulators before they went on shelves.

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board has been known to reject products in a shape or color deemed attractive to children.

One manufacturer, Seattle-based Db3, proposed a lemongrass lozenge that was rejected by Washington state regulators in 2014 because it was bright yellow. Db3 adjusted its formula to make the lemongrass item a subtler yellow, a change that got the lozenge approved.

Company co-founder Patrick Devlin said manufacturers perhaps surprisingly don’t mind strict edibles rules because they don’t want to be seen as targeting people younger than 21.

“Everybody is concerned about regulators or the public thinking of the industry as marketing to children,” Devlin said.

Flexibility is key

As more states allow the sale of marijuana edibles, manufacturers need to stay nimble, Whiteman advised.

From changes in packaging regulations to new labeling requirements or even changes in font size, edibles products face shifting state-by-state rules.

“Every state has its complexities,” said Whiteman, whose company sells edibles in Colorado, as well as in Oregon and Nevada through distribution partnerships. “Operators need to plan on doing things differently, on short notice.”

Kristen Nichols can be reached at