Cannabis Gummies, Hard Candies to Be Pulled From Washington Shelves

(Glen Carrie/unsplash)

Say goodbye to gummies, Washington—or at least start stocking up now.

At a Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) meeting on Wednesday, regulators announced a major change to the way the agency views cannabis-infused edible products, effectively banning all hard candies, fruit chews, gummies, and stylized chocolates.

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“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 board wrote in a presentation explaining the announcement. Producers are required to resubmit their products for approval by January 1, when the board’s new rules on packaging go into effect. The newly prohibited products are expected not to make it past that process.

“We found that we have approved some products that would meet the definition of especially appealing to children.”
Brian Smith , LCB communications director

The change was made as a response to concerns that many of these products were too appealing to minors, said Brian Smith, the LCB’s communications director. He stressed that the board wasn’t actually making a new rule, but simply enforcing existing policy—a move that allows regulators to sidestep public comment requirements. Washington state law prohibits any products that are “especially appealing to children,” and specifically calls out gummy candies in the statute. The slideshow includes images of replica peach rings, Life Savers, and other common candies.

“We found that we have approved some products that would meet the definition of especially appealing to children,” the slideshow says. Asked how things like FlavRX’s Flav brand “sour ring candy” made it through the approval process in the first place, Smith said that the board had discovered, upon review, that some of the product approval materials submitted to the board didn’t match up with what was actually on shelves.

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Indeed, certain industry appear to have been playing fast and loose with the rules. The LCB recently issued a bulletin alerting licensees that all products had to have THC integrated into them from the get-go, apparently in response to licensees who had been buying actual bulk candy and spraying it with THC distillate. And FlavRX’s sour rings weren’t the only product playing off a classic candy. A review of Magic Kitchen’s “Marmas” candies, posted by Washington retailer White Rabbit Cannabis, notes that “Marmas can be chewed and the texture is similar to a ‘Starburst’ candy.  The lack of ‘weed’ taste means Marmas make for a delicious candy.” They look, unsurprisingly, almost exactly like Starbursts. (A White Rabbit representative clarified in an email that the store advises customers “to be aware of the similarity [to Starbursts] and not over indulge as a result.”)

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Within the industry, no one is exactly arguing that they should be allowed to spray down gummy worms and sell them, but the sudden change has nevertheless frustrated edibles manufacturers who say they’ve taken pains to avoid appealing to children fear that their products are being tossed out anyway.

“We take a lot of time to craft products and brands that had earned LCB approval and are marketed and crafted strictly for adult consumption,” said Mindon Win, operations and logistics manager at Botanica Seattle. He feared that his company’s Journeyman brand pâte de fruits were likely on the chopping block, as well as some tarts and fruit chews marketed under the company’s Spot brand. This was especially frustrating, he said, because they’d already bought packaging and ingredients for those products and now may have to throw it all out.

 

“Our hope is to work with other licensees and the LCB to clarify current rules and guidelines for what they deem as appealing to children and remove any subjectivity from the process,” he said. As it stands, he added, “We have a couple sentences of regulations determining what could essentially be endless possibilities of edibles to infuse.”

Licensees have until April 3, 2019 to sell off their existing inventory, after which any remaining products that don’t meet the new criteria will have to be destroyed.

“Although the rationale for the action is to safeguard consumption by kids, no data or information from the Washington Poison Control Center was offered to justify this action,” lobbyist Chris Marr said in an email summary sent to clients. Smith said that the move was in response to public complaints. The board investigated and found the complaints to be substantiated, Smith said, but it didn’t respond to questions about the substance of those complaints.

This story has been updated to include comment from a representative of White Rabbit Cannabis.