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SPECIAL REPORT: Plastics Plaguing Pot Practices

Learning how state regulations impact cannabis

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - The cannabis industry has grown across Colorado, raking in around 1.5 billion last year alone, according to the Department of Revenue. However, many in the industry said some pot products leave behind more than just smoke.

A dispensary owner in Boulder described how the packaging on many products works. "Outer layer, which has you know all the licensing information, all the legality stuff, legal stuff. And then you usually have the inside layer, which is where the product is, and usually there is quite a bit of plastic and cardboard for a little piece of plastic that big," said Chris Anderson, the owner of Eclipse in Boulder.

The general manager of the Eclipse said state regulations impact the packaging. "Environmentally friendly aside, I would say, I just want a little bit more reasoning for the regulations behind you know, what's happening, and why these regulations are being implemented. There's a lot of them that we're just not really sure of, but we're following the rules to a T, but there's a lot that we just don't know why we're doing it," said Jason Fibel.

The Marijuana Enforcement Division licenses and regulates the commercial, medical, and adult-use cannabis industry. Their main goal is public health and safety, and they said the container directly holding a cannabis product must be child-resistant and opaque, along with certain labeling requirements. "Part of that discussion does include a generation of waste and opportunities to find new ways to support sustainable operations," said Dominique Mendiola, the deputy director of the Marijuana Enforcement Division.

Craft Concentrates manufactures cannabis concentrates, and a representative said those products said they need a pretty large package to hold all the required labels. "Blindly overregulating the cannabis industry because there might be irresponsible parents out there really is a disservice to the industry... The more that we're overburdened with regulations, the more that the black market is obviously going to thrive," said Kevin Gallagher, the director of compliance and government affairs for Craft.

There are companies out there trying to combat the packaging waste, like Sana Packaging. They have two product lines, one of which is 100% plant-based material and the other is 100% reclaimed ocean plastic. "We see an opportunity there to work within those regulations, try to bring some clarity to those regulations, and make packaging that makes sense for the industry," said Ron Basak-Smith, the CEO of Sana Packaging.

Those we spoke with also said the frequent changes to the regulations can make it difficult. Plus, if cannabis were to be federally legalized, state regulations would be trumped by other agencies like the FDA.

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