By Phillip Smith
Faced with growing concern about the use of marijuana "edibles" (food products containing marijuana) and taking preemptive steps toward industry self-education and self-regulation, the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) announced Wednesday that it is launching training courses for edibles makers and "budtenders," or retail sales people.
"The interest in edibles and other infused products keeps growing," said NCIA deputy director Taylor West. "We know our industry is under a microscope, and we want to make sure cannabis product-makers continue developing the highest quality and safest products possible."
But it's not just interest in edibles that's growing. Edibles have been behind some of the biggest scare stories to come out of Colorado, including the case of the African student who plunged to his death after eating a marijuana cookie and the case of the man who shot and killed his wife hours after ingesting edibles, not to mention the now infamous Maureen Dowd column in which the New York Times columnist ate an entire marijuana candy bar and got way too high.
Much of the news coverage has omitted the fact that the man also had taken prescription pain pills, raising the question of whether a drug interaction may have produced the violent behavior, according to MSNBC. The article also pointed out that Colorado sees an average of two alcohol-related deaths each week. But there is legitimate concern over how best to handle edible marijuana, the rareness of such incidents notwithstanding.
That concern extended to the state legislature, which quickly passed House Bill 1366 regulating edible sales earlier this year. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) signed that bill into law in May.
The NCIA is addressing those concerns with, among other things, a ServSafe Food Safety Basics Course designed just for marijuana industry professionals. Based on a curriculum originally developed by the National Restaurant Association, the course will teach participants about the significance of foodborne illness, proper personal hygiene, time and temperature control, how to prevent cross-contamination, cleaning, sanitizing and emergency procedures, and more.
It also offering up a Sell-SMaRT Responsible Cannabis Vendor course that will teach marijuana dispensary employees, or "budtenders," responsible selling practices, such as how to check ID, educate customers about responsible consumption, and handle tricky situations.
These courses are developed and facilitated by Maureen McNamara, founder of Cannabis Trainer, an NCIA member business. McNamara has been teaching the ServSafe course to traditional food industry professionals for the last 18 years, but this will be her first course geared solely for makers of marijuana edibles. She will also be working with the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division to design the Responsible Cannabis Vendor Program this year.
"This is a great example of how the industry is self-regulating to make marijuana-infused products as safe as possible for consumers," said Art Way, director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA)'s Colorado office. "We applaud NCIA for taking this important step forward."
For more information about the training programs, including time, date, location, and cost, click here.