This spring, the Pitkin County Commissioners granted a license for a marijuana-infused jerky producer in the Aspen Airport Business Center. But they weren’t happy about it.
Chair Rachel Richards said during the public meeting that she hoped it would be the first and last license granted for manufacturing edible cannabis products. The commissioners said they had a number of concerns. Included among them were worries that children or pets might accidentally ingest the drug, that because the business was in the neighborhood of a child care center, kids might be in danger, and that the product might be contaminated or contain pesticides.
Todd Gardner is the owner of the Cannabis Queen, the company that makes the pot product — two flavors of bison jerky, wrapped in individual serving packs with a dose of 10mg of THC each.
The operating license from the county allows Cannabis Queen to make its product for only one year, at which time it will need to reapply. Gardner believes his operation is an asset to the county, and hopes his permit will be renewed.
“If the Pitkin County commissioners determine ‘hey we don't like Cannabis Queen they are awful, we don't want them in the county anymore’ we would pull up stakes and go do it in the next county over - what good does that do them?” said Gardner.
The facility is checked by the county health department and each batch of the jerky is tested both in-house and by an independent lab. Inside the operation it looks like a mad scientist set up shop in a high-end kitchen. There’s a fridge and a shelf of spices but also specialized equipment for quality control, precisely measuring how much THC is in each batch.
Amid a flurry of marijuana retail and manufacturing applications last spring, the commissioners asked the Valley Marijuana Council (VMC) to research the impact of edibles and present a formal recommendation. The VMC was formed by Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo in 2014 as a way to promote dialogue among law enforcement, public health entities and retailers.
That report is now complete - or as complete as it can be, said Brad Stevenson who coordinated the research effort for the policy group.
“You have a number of different data sources — none of which really are clear in terms of what this means — if there are significant impacts,” said Stevenson.
The council was not able to find any sources showing that edible marijuana is a problem. Not in Pitkin County, not in Colorado. The report concludes “regulatory interventions, in the opinion of VMC members, aren’t warranted. That said, strong recommendations are made by the group for policy action related to education, (and) awareness.”
The report is reassuring to Bryn Lehmkuhl, the operations manager for Cannabis Queen, who thinks society is growing into acceptance of pot.
“I think with our generation, in 50 years, it’s not going to be a big deal, no one is going to care,” he said.
The staff of the Cannabis Queen support the council’s findings, and hope it will give the commissioners a change of heart. They also agree with the council recommendation for education. Every piece of jerky comes with an informational flyer about dosage and the delayed onset of the effects of the product.
The report recommends that if the commissioner's are going to form policy, it should be based on education systems at point-of-sale and with parents.
The VMC will formally present its findings to the county commissioners and the Aspen City Council later this fall.