Ban On Select Edibles Alarms Washington State Cannabis Retailers

By Paul Gaita 10/11/18
Retailers and manufacturers will be allowed to sell banned products until inventories are exhausted or until April 2019.
cannabis-infused gummies

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board took many marijuana businesses aback on October 3 when it announced that cannabis-infused products that may appeal to children—gummy candies, lollipops and/or brightly colored products—will be prohibited from sale.

Manufacturers and retailers alike expressed concern that they were not given adequate warning about what the board is calling a "re-evaluation" of such products; though edibles make up a relatively small portion of marijuana products sold in Washington state (9%), they are a significant revenue stream for many independent companies.

The Board will hold a webinar on October 16 to address concerns about the impending re-evaluation, and companies whose products fall under the ban will have a chance to appeal.

The Board made its announcement via an online presentation, which ascribed its decision as an attempt to address concerns from board members as well as "stakeholders and the public" in regard to infused edible candy.

A re-evaluation of such products, which were previously approved by the Board, led to the new ruling, which stated that "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" under the new guidelines. The rule will take effect January 1, 2019.

Drinks, baked goods, chips and tinctures do not fall under the ban, as well as certain types of candies, such as chocolate, caramels or mints, provided that they are not presented in a manner that is "especially appealing to children," such as certain colors, flavors, shapes or additions such as sprinkles or frosting.

Retailers and manufacturers will be allowed to sell banned products until inventories are exhausted or until April 3, 2019, after which they must be disposed of according to marijuana waste requirements. 

Retailers and manufacturers will have to resubmit labels and products for their items to the Board prior to the January 1 activation date; if their products do not meet the new requirements, they will be informed that board approval is being rescinded. The notification will also include information on how to appeal the decision.

Response from retailers and manufacturers was immediate and elicited deep concern. While many support the idea of ensuring that products do not appeal to kids, they were also worried about the impact of the ban on their businesses. "If we lose the ability to make these candies, we'll be out of business," said Craft Elixirs owner Jamie Hoffman. 

Diana Isaiou, owner of American Baked Co., said that more than half of her company's sales are edible fruit chews, which require the purchase of large and expensive amounts of ingredients and packaging prior to manufacture. "We don't get business loans in the marijuana industry," she said. "These are people's personal bank rolls."

Others expressed dismay at what they considered an arbitrary ban. "I'm concerned that whole categories of products are being tossed out categorically," said Logan Bowers, owner of Hashtag Cannabis. "I don't see how a chew is inherently more enticing to a child than a cookie."

The Liquor and Cannabis Board will offer a link to register for the October 16 webinar on its website.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.