New testing, labeling and packaging rules for medical and retail marijuana will go into effect at the first of the year, the Colorado Department of Revenue announced last week.

The new rules, mandated by the Colorado Legislature during this year's session, are aimed at improving public safety and keeping marijuana away from children.

The department also created new licensing requirements for testing, research and development facilities.

"These rules help to ensure that all marijuana that comes into the market is not contaminated, accurately labeled and stays out of the hands of children," said Mike Hartman, executive director of the department, which oversees enforcement and taxation of the budding industry. "Additionally, the new licenses offer opportunities for research and development in this industry, so collectively, the state and the industry can maintain the emphasis on public health and safety."

New rules on packaging are aimed at keeping marijuana away from children by ensuring they don't entice minors or can easily be opened by them.

To reduce the "white noise" effect on labeling, the practice of putting too much detailed information in small lettering on a package, the rules now require more prominent lettering to highlight what is most critical to each product, such as potency.

Under the measure approved by the Legislature, which was partly sponsored by Republican Sen. Randy Baumgardner, whose district includes Garfield County, the new licensing requirements are designed to promote more research into marijuana uses, particularly medical benefits.

The measure, HB1367, created a "closed loop" for whatever is used for research, and that all of it is followed through an inventory tracking system.

"Our guiding principles are to make rules that are always transparent, systematic, operable, grounded in law and defensible so that licenses can efficiently comply with consistency," said Jim Burack, director of the state's Medical Enforcement Division. "Licenses and industry stakeholders have been thoroughly and actively engaged in the legislative and rule-making process, as we incorporated stakeholder feedback wherever we could."

The new rules were announced now to give those involved time to comply by Jan. 1.

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