Washington Pauses Ban on Infused Gummies and Hard Candies

THC gummies got a state reprieve from regulators—for now. (ljubaphoto/iStock)

Little more than a week after the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) prohibited infused gummies and hard candies starting 2019, the agency has reversed course.

But will the delay actually save the cannabis-infused treats? That’s still up in the air.

Under a revised plan announced by regulators, the cannabis industry will have 30 days to bring forward alternatives for the agency to consider. “In conversations with industry members, we agreed to pause the product and label review process to consider any alternative proposals from the industry,” WSLCB Director Rick Garza said in a statement last week.

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The ban took consumers by surprise when it was unveiled earlier this month. In an Oct. 3 presentation, the agency quietly announced a change in how it interpreted state cannabis rules. Certain infused edibles—including gummies and hard candies previously approved by the board—would be forbidden in 2019 due to concerns that the products “meet the definition of especially appealing to children.”

“All production of hard candy (of any style, shape or size), tarts, fruit chews, colorful chocolates, jellies and any gummy type products should cease,” the presentation said. Producers were to submit their products for approval by Jan. 1, when new state rules on packaging are set to take effect.

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Because the WSLCB deemed the move a reinterpretation of existing rules rather than a formal rule change, the agency was able to sidestep an otherwise mandatory public comment period. The pause, the agency said, came after a formal request from industry groups, including the Cannabis Organization of Retail Establishments (CORE), the Cannabis Alliance, and the Washington Cannabusiness Association.

“Regardless of whether it accepts an alternative proposal for certain edible products, the LCB will continue its practice of not allowing any product that it deems ‘especially appealing to children’ to enter the marketplace,” the WSLCB statement said.

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A rule in place since 2015 seems to prohibit certain infused edibles:

A marijuana processor is limited in the types of food or drinks they may infuse with marijuana. Marijuana-infused products that require cooking or baking by the consumer are prohibited. Marijuana-infused products that are especially appealing to children are prohibited. Marijuana-infused edible products such as, but not limited to, gummy candies, lollipops, cotton candy, or brightly colored products, are prohibited.

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Questions From Industry, Consumers

Despite the rule, WSLCB regulators had previously approved many of the products that stand to be removed under the stricter interpretation. Just two months before board announced the change, for example, it approved products such as blueberry-flavored fruit chews made by Craft Elixirs, the Seattle Times reported.

Other industry members questioned the coherence of regulators’ notions of what types of products appeal to children. “I’m concerned that whole categories of products are being tossed out,” Logan Bowers, owner of Seattle-area retailer Hashtag, told Times reporter Heidi Groover. “I don’t see how a chew is inherently more enticing to a child than a cookie. Children love cookies.”

Consumers, too, pushed back against the planned ban. “As an ex-smoker, edibles are the only way I enjoy pot,” Paul Constant, a writer and co-founder of The Seattle Review of Books, said on Twitter after the announcement. “I loathe everything about this decision.”

An informational webinar WSLCB had planned for Tuesday, Oct. 16, will be postponed until next month.