The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Marijuana and Hemp: No longer underground

Marijuana and Hemp: No longer underground

The Food Journal

May 13, 2014

How is marijuana in food currently regulated?

While the federal government is concerned about sales of marijuana to minors and street gang or cartel activity, each state’s government that has legalized marijuana regulates the businesses and sales. In Colorado, the Department of Revenue Marijuana Enforcement Division has the Marijuana Tracking System – “insuring public safety” with video surveillance, and specific enforcement actions to track marijuana products from seed to sale. Infused product makers have to follow all the rules the Department of Health imposes on any other legal food-based business such as sanitation. In Washington State, if you want to sell marijuana products, you go through the Liquor Control Board, which has received over 3500 applications and will probably only approve 350. California, Oregon, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada and Alaska to name a few could be next to pass marijuana tax and regulation initiatives.

Where regulations need to go: A Colorado case study

While the amount of marijuana active ingredient in food is established by standard as 10 milligrams THC/max 100 milligrams in any one product, there are no actual labeling regulations aside from warnings noting that untested marijuana is an ingredient. The only packaging requirement is an opaque child-proof container. “Regulating marijuana makes it safer because you know what you're getting. Products are packed, labeled, and heavily controlled,” says Mason Tvert, Director of Communications, Marijuana Policy Project in Denver, Colorado. “That said, for consumers in general, consistency and clarity with labeling and packaging still needs to be nailed down. Our legislature is currently considering that, and it is likely to be something that is addressed and revisited frequently, just like we see with other products." Read full interview with Mason Tvert

These necessary changes do appear to be in the works in Colorado. According to Policy Analyst Andrew Livingston of law firm Vincent Sederberg LLC, a few things will likely happen with edible marijuana product regulations. (1) Some sort of mark, symbol, or shape will need to be placed on edible marijuana products, or they will have to conform to a specific shape. (2) The 100mg total package size limit could be reduced down to 50mg or 30mgs of THC (3) Each 10mg serving size of THC will likely need to be distinguishable in the marijuana product. Either a single contiguous piece of an edible product will only be able to be 10mgs or the edible must be able to be broken down easily into 10mg serving sizes (like a typical chocolate bar). There is a bill HB 14-1366 that will require the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division to start stakeholder working group meetings by July 1st, 2014 to determine the best ways to mark, shape, or package marijuana products so that they are clearly distinguishable from non-marijuana products. Read full statement by Andrew Livingston, Policy Analyst, Vincent Sederberg, LLC

Differences between food with marijuana and food with hemp

Marijuana is cannibus with THC used for psychotropic and medicinal purposes. It is put into edibles often with a high amount of THC - 12 to 25% THC by dry weight. These edible products will likely be produced from the trimmings of the marijuana leaf or the bud. Hemp is also cannibus, but as stipulated in Section 7606 of the 2014 Farm Bill, industrial hemp is “with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”  While hemp is taking off in the natural foods category as an organic super food high in protein - hemp seed oil and butter to name a few - hemp is also used to make clothes, other textile products and animal bedding. There is hemp concrete and even a Hemp Shield Wood Finish; non-toxic, eco-friendly and made in the good old USA.  

Back in 2011 for Hemp History Week, SupermarketGuru, Phil Lempert, already was pointing out in this cooking video, “Offer people more alternatives that are real foods, we all win.” 

What are the concerns with legalizing hemp?

“Law enforcement in many states have argued we can’t legalize hemp because it looks like pot; that upon investigating a crop of cannabis, people growing THC varieties of cannabis AKA marijuana will say ‘it’s hemp.’ If the farmer is indeed growing hemp, the plant won’t have THC content,” says Lauren Stansbury of Movement Media, representing Vote Hemp and the Hemp Industries Association. “The fact is a field of hemp looks remarkably different from a marijuana operation.” Lauren explains that one trait of hemp since it is grown for fiber can grow to 15 feet tall. “Cannabis grown for its THC content is generally intentionally cultivated to grow shorter, bushier and wider, often in individual pots, allowing for more opportunity to bud—the flower being the primary source of THC content for THC-rich varieties of cannabis. With hemp, you want to maximize your hemp harvest per acre, so the plants are planted close together. They grow quite tall and have less opportunity to branch out laterally and become bushy.” Read full interview with Lauren Stansbury

CLICK HERE for a comprehensive list of the states that have introduced pro-hemp legislation and the states that have passed pro-hemp legislation. 

Board member of NORML, and publisher of, Diane Fornbacher says, “Hemp is really quite something… there are a lot of industries that are not renewable, and they have had their time in the sun. It’s now hemp’s turn. People don’t know what hemp is. One year my son mentioned hemp at school on Earth Day because I was part of Hemp Week. Nobody knew what he was talking about when he said it was really nutritional and that it makes cars and houses. All they wanted to know was, 'How do you know about marijuana? Does your mom use marijuana?’