This week, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) made a big decision for cannabis product manufacturers and retailers. The state board banned cannabis infused gummies, hard candies, and other brightly colored, sweet products. Retailers can sell their current inventory until gone, or must remove it from shelves in April 2019. Manufacturers must immediately cease production of new products.
The LCB’s decision comes at a crossroads in the US. Cannabis products, along with CBD and nicotine products, are under scrutiny for their seeming appeal to the youth market. Board officials note chocolates, gummies, sweets, and brightly colored packaging as some of the lead red flag products.
For the Kids
Legislative bodies and councils are, in part, worried about accidental ingestion by children when they see candies or sweets in their homes. More seriously, however, are the sweeping crackdowns and strict regulations to keep manufacturers from creating products that ‘appeal to children’ directly. The indirect accusation is, of course, that these companies are consciously creating products to get younger people hooked on them.
Washington’s LCB listed “similarity to commercially available products that are marketed towards and are especially appealing to children” as one reason for the ban. Cannabis infused candies that bear striking resemblance to some ‘regular’ candies found in grocery and convenience stores were prominently displayed. “All production of hard candy (of any style, shape or size), tarts, fruit chews, colorful chocolates, jellies and any gummy type products should cease as they will not qualify,” the board announced in their publication. Among infused cannabis products allowed without changes are beverages, capsules, baked goods, and chips.
It would, likely, be very easy for a child to confuse the two products and accidentally ingest a cannabis candy. Also listed as concerning standards are ‘appearance’ and ‘color.’ Details on what those terms mean, however, is absent from the LCB’s presentation. Chocolate, cookies, mints, and caramels carry some specific limitations, but still, the details were vague and lacked direction. Throughout the publication, the board specified “no color, shape, or design that is especially appealing to children” is allowed – without further explanation. Instead, the board requires all products and labels to be submitted or resubmitted for evaluation by January 1, 2019.
The WSLCB officially listed “children’s accidental ingestion” as their cause for the change. However, a decision like theirs comes during a time of heightened scrutiny and legislation of similar products ‘aimed at children.’ More city and state governments are banning ‘kid-friendly’ products from the cannabis, CBD, and nicotine product industries.
The FDA has mounted an ongoing investigation into marketing and advertising practices by pod vape maker, Juul Labs, to address concerns over teens using their products because of the flavors of their nicotine pods. Major cities across the US are banning flavored tobacco products, even the old staple menthol, to reduce youth appeal and access to nicotine- a highly addictive substance.
Cannabis-friendly states grow concerned about keeping these products out of the hands of kids, on top of looming nicotine and CBD legislation. As the industry innovates and crafts nuanced products like infused edibles, manufacturers will have to be more considerate of exactly in whose hands their products could easily end up.