Washington Cannabis Candy Regulations Get it Right

Cannabis-infused edibles remain a public concern as legal pot expands across the country. Atop these concerns is the legitimate fear that edibles, in the form of candies and other familiar foods, might end up in the hands of minors.

Children may not recognize these products as containing pot. Or worse, irresponsible companies might be tempted into creating edibles that look like snacks that kids commonly eat — thus marketing towards underage users.

Which is why firm regulations in this area, overseen by state government regulators, are so critical. Minors must be protected against legal pot, as they are from alcohol. At the same time, however, regulation should not overstep. Cannabis edibles are a favorite among legal-age users, and a reliable source of profit for companies that produce them responsibly.

For a look at regulations that strike the right balance between these two sides, consider new laws forthcoming in Washington State. The government there nearly banned gummies and hard candies over similar fears explained above. Rather than take that drastic step, though, politicians reconsidered, and came back with new restrictions that allow candies while also enhancing public safety.

Among these new restrictions is a rule against using bright colors for candies or their packaging. Instead, companies must choose from among a “standard pantone color book that sets the list of colors and specified ranges within those colors.” The color of an edible does not affect the psychotropic or medicinal outcome. So why not color these products in a way that does not make children mistake them for a sweet treat?

Also included in the new bill, likely to pass, are limits on the shapes of candies. (An exception allows broader range of shapes for nonprofit collaborations, along with naturally occurring colors.) Again, the point is to dissuade kids from misidentifying these products as benign sugary snacks. Forcing companies to produce edibles in shapes unlike typical candies could be enough for children to give pause, enough time for reconsideration, before they reach for these drugs.

These new laws would also prevent companies from purposely designing edibles in a manner that subliminally advertises towards underage users by appearing like common candies that kids already eat.

Unsurprisingly, the Washington CannaBusiness Association praised these proposed restrictions. “The agency’s new interim policy decision, informed by the input of bipartisan elected leaders and regulated industry representatives, provides a transparent review and approval process going forward for safe, quality-controlled products for adult and medicinal use,” the association said in a release. “Our shared goal is to support the long-term viability of our state’s cannabis marketplace while also keeping cannabis out of the hands of minors.”

The bill also takes into account retailers and dispensaries that still have in stock edibles made before the new law. Rather than render these illegal, the legislation gives businesses nine months to sell off these items. Any edibles leftover after that time period can be repacked, relabeled and sold, assuming they meet the new criteria.

These new regulations accompany another new law in Washington regarding labels. Beginning Feb. 14, product packaging for cannabis edibles must show a warning that reads “Not for Kids,” plus a big red hand implying “Stop.” Labels will also include the emergency phone number for the Washington Poison Center.

Altogether, politicians and regulators in Washington have come together to craft new laws that increase security against underage use, while also allowing the edible market to grow and flourish, unhindered by overreaching lregislation. Other states should take notice.

Kyle Swartz is editor of Cannabis Regulator. Reach him at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or on Twitter @kswartzz or Instagram @cheers_magazine. Read his recent piece The Next 4 States to Legalize Cannabis.