Legal weed has lots of upsides: it improves local economies, adds a comfortable layer of detachment to the purchasing process, lets first-time users experiment with dosages more carefully, and normalizes a heretofore villainized substance that just about everyone was already partaking in anyway. But one industry has been seeing nothing but downsides since the U.S. began legalizing recreational marijuana state by state, and that’s the candy industry. As this New York Times article explains, candy makers are suing the companies that manufacture edibles on the grounds that the products look way too much like candy.
The Wrigley company, owned by Mars Inc., filed a lawsuit this month against five different companies that manufacture cannabis-infused products designed to look like Skittles, Starburst, and Life Savers (all Wrigley products). It’s a rather straightforward case of intellectual property rights, since the designs of both the edibles themselves and their packaging are obvious rip-offs of their well-known candy counterparts. But it’s not just about IP; Wrigley emphasizes that the rise in THC products that resemble candy will pose a risk to those who don’t read the label carefully, particularly children.
This is far from the first such lawsuit to be filed by a candy company against an offending line of edibles, the New York Times notes. Major companies like Hershey, Mondelez International, and Ferrara have sued makers of lookalike products on similar grounds as Wrigley. Since the companies making the edibles are smaller and newer than the companies suing them, these suits have all ended in settlements, with the offending companies stopping production of the imitations. Mostly, it sounds like it’s been a game of whack-a-mole: find an IP violation, slap it with a cease-and-desist letter, repeat.
The NYT article features side-by-side images of mainstream candies and the cannabis-infused knockoffs, and the camouflage really is striking; a bag of Starburst Gummies Sours and Cannaburst Gummies Sours look nearly identical, right down to the fonts, colors, and flavors. The Cannaburst bag even lists its THC content in a box designed to look like the standard calorie count listing on packages of candy and snacks.
The Times gets really in the weeds (heh) with things like poison control center data and intellectual property law, but it’s all fascinating stuff that is bound to become even more relevant as more states legalize recreational marijuana. Give it a read if you’ve got the time—but if you’re going to read anything closely, make sure it’s the label on that bag of sour gummies you’re holding.