Should states regulate marijuana ‘edibles’?

marijuana cookies

States that have legalized marijuana need to put strong restrictions on the drug’s edible products, according to two law professors.

In a new article in the New England Journal of Medicine, Robert MacCoun and Michelle Mello of Stanford Law School write that one of the most notable features of the rollout of state-legalized retail sales of marijuana has been the tremendous popularity of edible products.

“Once you legalize it, you can regulate it”

The problem is that marijuana edibles–which often look like candy or cookies and are frequently potent–increase the chances that children will overdose, they write in the article.

“As legalization of marijuana spreads, new adopters (states) should ensure that their regulatory scheme for marijuana edibles is fully baked,” write MacCoun and Mello.

Marijuana use for adults over 21 is fully legal in Colorado, Washington, and Alaska. Oregon passed a similar law that will take effect in July. Several other states have legalized marijuana for medicinal use or have decriminalized it. A notable feature of state-legalized retail sales of marijuana has been the popularity of edibles.

‘Attractive nuisance’

MacCoun, who studies social psychology, explains that the original marijuana laws were based on ballot initiatives, without legislative give-and-take processes. “As a result, they were not rigorous and detailed in their approach to issues like edibles,” he says.

Colorado and Washington put extremely modest rules on edibles, therefore making it easy to sell and market edible products, he says.

“Both states require child-resistant packaging, a warning to ‘keep out of the reach of children,’ and labeling describing a standard serving size. Neither requires warnings that ingested marijuana can have different effects from smoked marijuana,” write MacCoun and Mello.

While both Colorado and Washington generally prohibit packaging and advertising that targets children, neither state requires packaging that would clearly distinguish edibles from ordinary food products, MacCoun says. Some of the edibles look like Hershey or KitKat bars, and the drinks resemble the major brands of non-marijuana colas.

Mello says the issue brings to mind the tort-law concept of an “attractive nuisance,” which describes a hazardous condition that is likely to attract children who are unable to appreciate the risk involved.

“It also evokes tobacco companies’ use of advertising campaigns with youth appeal,” MacCoun and Mello write.

Large doses of THC

They acknowledge that marijuana is associated with a long history of “public misinformation” about the effects of the drug. But the scientific record is clear on the documented risk of edibles, especially for children. “Some of these products contain four or more times the level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that is considered to be a safe dose,” they note.

Taken in large doses, THC can produce serious anxiety attacks and psychotic-like symptoms, according to MacCoun and Mello. Strong differences exist in the pharmacokinetic and metabolic effects of marijuana when it is ingested rather than smoked.

Case reports document respiratory insufficiency in young children who have ingested marijuana through edibles, MacCoun says. A recent study shows that the proportion of ingestion-related emergency department visits by children in Colorado associated with marijuana ingestion increased after legal restrictions were eased. The majority of identified sources in those cases were marijuana edibles.

Other factors are important to consider as well. “The availability of child-friendly edibles could increase the probability of initiation to marijuana use, reduce the average age of initiation, and increase the frequency and intensity of use among users of all ages,” according to MacCoun and Mello.

Three recommendations

States have created a wide berth for marketing of marijuana edibles that federal agencies are unwilling or unable to narrow, MacCoun and Mello say. That is why they can enact stronger, more effective regulations on the formulation, packaging and marketing of edible marijuana products. And it is best to do this when those laws are being written, either at the ballot or in legislative chambers—not later on.

“We’re advocating some fairly modest regulations that would not restrict the ability of adults to use marijuana,” MacCoun says.

MacCoun and Mello write that child-resistant packaging is necessary but not sufficient—”Older children can easily defeat it.” They suggested the following measures:

  • Clear labeling and standardization of THC doses and recommended serving sizes
  • Warning labels about the risks that edible marijuana poses for overintoxication
  • Regulations to ensure that edibles do not look like familiar non-marijuana sweets

Also, the courts may serve as another avenue of regulation, as well as food companies that perceive trademark infringement issues with the edibles. The authors know of at least one such lawsuit already under way, with additional ones on the way.

The federal government does not regulate marijuana edibles, or marijuana at all, they write. As a Schedule I controlled substance—which means it has a high potential for abuse—marijuana is not recognized by the federal government for sales or usage.

This is why it is up to the states. “Once you legalize it, you can regulate it,” MacCoun says.

Source: Stanford University

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Egg production options come with tradeoffs

hens kept for eggs in cage

A new study looks at three ways of housing chickens for egg production and considers their effects on animal health, efficiency, and environmental impact.

Hongwei Xin, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering and director of the Egg Industry Center at Iowa State, says the study compares conventional egg production, which features six laying hens to a cage, with two alternative models.

The study is the first to make this comparison at the commercial scale.

The first alternative housing system is known as an enriched colony system, in which approximately 60 birds share a large enclosure with access to amenities such as perches, nest boxes, and scratch pads.

The second alternative housing system analyzed in the study is known as an aviary, in which hundreds of hens are allowed to roam freely in a large space for much of the day.

Pressure on the industry

Over recent years, concern about animal welfare has put pressure on egg producers to move away from conventional production methods. This has created a need for empirical research into alternative options, says Xin.

California’s Proposition 2, which went into effect on January 1, requires egg producers to provide hens a minimum space of 116 square inches, an increase of 73 percent from current industry standards. Producers that don’t comply with the California law can’t sell shell eggs in the state.

“The project arose from the needs of the industry and retailers,” Xin says. “There was a need for comprehensive analysis of these different production systems and their impact on animal welfare, food safety, production economics, and the environment.”

Air quality comparison

Each production system comes with tradeoffs. The aviary system, for instance, creates the potential for increased environmental impacts.

Xin says his group found that the conventional and enriched colony systems had similar affects on indoor air quality, with ammonia levels rarely exceeding 15 parts per million.

The aviary system resulted in higher dust levels and emissions, with indoor ammonia levels occasionally reaching 25 parts per million or higher on cold days.

That’s because chicken manure can easily land on the floor of an aviary as the birds have so much space in which to move. The manure dries out and turns to dust, which is then kicked around by the roaming birds, Xin says.

That extra movement also leads to a drop in feed-use efficiency, or the ability of birds to turn feed into eggs, Xin says. Decreased feed-use efficiency leads to a larger carbon footprint because it takes more corn and soybeans to produce the same amount of eggs.

Xin’s team contributed three articles in the first wave of nine publications just released in the March issue of the journal Poultry Science. Subsequent articles will focus on economics, hen physiology, welfare, and other topics.

Source: Iowa State University

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Berkeley researchers pioneer new powder-based concrete 3D printing technique

The Bloom pavilion is said to be the first and largest powder-based 3D-printed cement stru...

3D printing looks set to become very important in architecture, but we’ve yet to see exactly how the future of large-scale click-and-print construction will play out. A potential step forward comes via a team of UC Berkeley researchers led by Associate Professor of Architecture Ronald Rael, who recently created a free-standing pavilion called Bloom to demonstrate the precision of their powder-based cement method of 3D-printed construction.
.. Continue Reading Berkeley researchers pioneer new powder-based concrete 3D printing technique

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students and schools • Re: Did you think high concept projects were useful?

It is possible that many self imposed constraints will not exist in a year or two, or do not exist in the first place. It is always a good exercise to think without any constraints.

Not just for design school. I have been involved in projects where companies come looking (and paying) for such proposals because in-house design teams are too restricted in the “what is possible”.

students and schools • Re: Did you think high concept projects were useful?

This kind of reminds me of a old TV series: “How William Shatner Changed the World.” I have friends in entertainment design and concept are, and I respect them for what they do. But whenever I’m doing blue sky, I just feel like I’m a pretender. I think to some extent, blue sky should never approached very seriously. My big mistake was trying to tackle a pretty serious problem, rather than just making something cool and far out.

It’s one thing to go into it and think, “wouldn’t it be cool if we had the holodeck instead of skype?”

It’s another to go into it with, “you know what’s going to solve starvation in Africa? 3D printing food stations.”


The World's Most Overrated Graphic Design

Helvetica, hand-lettering, infographics, and more: which of these graphic designs gets way too much credit?

If Co.Design readers’ eight picks for the world’s most overrated graphic design were compiled into one, you’d have a letter-pressed, tonal, minimalist infographic poster in Helvetica about Nike’s new artisanal branding campaign, with some hand-lettered details thrown in. Fortunately, these eight candidates haven’t yet been hybridized. They’re competing in the graphic design category for our upcoming March Madness bracket, in which you can vote for your (least) favorite.

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Would you pay more for GMO potatoes?

French fries

Genetically modified French fries and potato chips cost more but may reduce the levels of a chemical compound linked to cancer. Are consumers willing to pay the price?

Acrylamide, a chemical compound that accumulates naturally in starchy foods cooked at high temperatures, has been linked to the formation of cancer in animals, and the FDA has encouraged Americans to cut back on foods that contain it.

Potato products like French fries and potato chips make up the biggest source of acrylamide consumption in the United States. It is also found in roasted nuts, coffee beans, and bread crusts.

“This is a complicated issue so it’s important for consumers to get information on how the technology works and its potential benefits,” says Wallace Huffman, professor in agriculture and life sciences at Iowa State University.

Potato growers have tried conventional plant breeding techniques to cut down on the formation of acrylamide, but biotechnology and genetic modification have yielded more promising results.

GMO food has sparked controversy, but the results of a recent study suggest consumers are willing to pay more for genetically modified potato products if they think they’re safer.

For the study, approximately 300 people in the Boston, Los Angeles, and Des Moines areas participated in an experimental auction market for various potato products both before and after receiving informational materials on acrylamide and the biotechnology used to reduce its formation. Each participant received some combination of information from the perspective of potato growers, food scientists, and environmental groups.

Participants were willing to pay $1.78 more for a five-pound bag of potatoes after they received information from a scientific perspective on hazards associated with acrylamide exposure and a potato industry perspective on dramatically reducing acrylamide in potato products using biotechnology.

Likewise, participants were willing to pay an extra $1.33 for a package of frozen French fries after they received materials explaining the scientific implications of human exposure to acrylamide.

While scientific and industry perspectives had a substantial effect on consumers’ willingness to buy genetically modified products, the environmental information had a negative impact, Huffman says.

“There was a really strong effect from the industry and scientific perspectives,” Huffman says. “Another interesting finding was that social and demographic concerns didn’t seem to matter regarding willingness to pay for genetically modified products.”

The US Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the University of Wisconsin funded the research.

Source: Iowa State University

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Will the search for dark matter end with this galaxy?

dwarf galaxy

A newly discovered dwarf galaxy orbiting the Milky Way appears to be radiating gamma rays—a sign that dark matter may be lurking at the galaxy’s center.

“Something in the direction of this dwarf galaxy is emitting gamma rays,” says Alex Geringer-Sameth, a postdoctoral research associate in the physics department at Carnegie Mellon University and lead author of the paper that has been submitted to Physical Review Letters.

“There’s no conventional reason this galaxy should be giving off gamma rays, so it’s potentially a signal for dark matter.”

Exciting, but preliminary

The galaxy, named Reticulum 2, was identified recently in the data of the Dark Energy Survey, an experiment that maps the southern sky to understand the accelerated expansion of the universe. At approximately 98,000 light-years from Earth, Reticulum 2 is one of the nearest dwarf galaxies yet detected.

Using publicly available data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, researchers have shown gamma rays coming from the direction of the galaxy in excess of what would be expected from normal background.

“In the search for dark matter, gamma rays from a dwarf galaxy have long been considered a very strong signature,” says Savvas Koushiappas, assistant professor of physics at Brown University. “It seems like we may now be detecting such a thing for the first time.”

The researchers caution that while these preliminary results are exciting, there is more work to be done to confirm a dark-matter origin.

What is dark matter?

No one knows exactly what dark matter is, but it is thought to account for around 80 percent of the matter in the universe. Scientists know that dark matter exists because it exerts gravitational effects on visible matter, which explains the observed rotation of galaxies and galaxy clusters as well as fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background.

“The gravitational detection of dark matter tells you very little about the particle behavior of the dark matter,” says Matthew Walker, assistant professor of physics and a member of Carnegie Mellon’s McWilliams Center for Cosmology. “But now we may have a non-gravitational detection that shows dark matter behaving like a particle, which is a holy grail of sorts.”

A leading theory suggests that dark matter particles are WIMPs—Weakly Interacting Massive Particles. When pairs of WIMPs meet, they annihilate one another, giving off high-energy gamma rays.

If that’s true, then there should be a lot of gamma rays emanating from places where WIMPs are thought to be plentiful, like the dense centers of galaxies. The trouble is, the high-energy rays also originate from many other sources, including black holes and pulsars, which makes it difficult to untangle a dark matter signal from the background noise.

Clean and quiet

That’s why dwarf galaxies are important in the hunt for the dark matter particle. Dwarfs are thought to lack other gamma-ray-producing sources, so a gamma ray flux from a dwarf galaxy would make a very strong case for dark matter.

“They’re basically very clean and quiet systems,” Koushiappas says.

Scientists have been looking at them for signs of gamma rays for the last several years using NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. But there’s never been a convincing signal—until now.

Over the last few years, the researchers have been developing an analysis technique that searches for weak signals in the gamma ray data that could be due to dark matter annihilation. With the discovery of Reticulum 2, Geringer-Sameth turned his attention to that part of the sky. He looked at all of the gamma rays coming from the direction of the dwarf galaxy as well as gamma rays coming from adjacent areas of the sky to provide a background level.

“There did seem to be an excess of gamma rays, above what you would expect from normal background processes, coming from the direction of this galaxy,” he says. “Given the way that we think we understand how gamma rays are generated in this region of the sky, it doesn’t seem that those processes can explain this signal.”

Further study of this dwarf galaxy’s attributes could reveal hidden sources that may be emitting gamma rays, but the researchers are cautiously optimistic, Walker says.

“The fact that there are gamma rays and also a clump of dark matter in the same direction makes it quite interesting.”

Source: Brown University

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