In 2023, cannabis is legal for recreational use in 23 U.S. states. (Nearly halfway there!) However, because its legality has seen so much pushback and an uneven rollout across the country over the past several years, a lot of unregulated products have slipped through to the mainstream. The government is, predictably, not very happy about it—but theirs is currently a branding concern as well as a THC-related one.
Weed has been “legal” in New York for about two years, yet I still feel the need to put “legal” in quotation marks. Sure, you can smoke it in public now, but the state has been very slow to embrace the legal sale of marijuana products. In New York City, there are only a few official dispensaries like the ones found in California or Colorado. Unofficial weed stores, therefore, have popped up all around the city to compensate. In my neighborhood, there’s a strapping cannabis entrepreneur who operates a “dispensary” out of his ’90s Ford minivan. He knows nothing about the products he’s selling and is usually on the phone for the entire duration of your transaction.
Despite these unofficial shops lending an air of legitimacy to the operation, you still have no idea what you’re getting: A bag of 40mg gummies could actually be 400mg or vice versa. Many edibles are also designed to look and taste like popular snacks, from Doritos to Life Savers.
Because children might mistake the THC products for candy, police have seized such products in the past, citing safety concerns. Additionally, confectioners themselves have sued makers of cannabis edibles because of the products’ resemblance to mainstream candies. Now, the FTC has gotten involved, sending cease and desist letters to several companies in six different states, all of which make marijuana-infused snacks in packaging that’s nearly identical to the products’ non-infused counterparts.
The bag of THC Doritos seized by the FTC, seen here, really is almost indistinguishable from a bag of Doritos; the product name isn’t even changed to anything punny, like Stoner Patch Kids or Zzzkittles. As we’ve seen with past legal action, the FTC’s concern is twofold: copyright infringement and the concern that kids could accidentally taste a medicated snack and be sent on the trip of a lifetime. (Personally, I think I would’ve had a much happier childhood had I been heavily dosed with marijuana, but that’s beside the point.)
While children accidentally acquiring copious amounts of cannabis-infused candy may seem like a made-up issue being used as a political ploy by the anti-weed crowd, it’s apparently enough of a concern to warrant legislative action. California banned THC gummy bears back in 2017, and last Halloween, a Chicago man was arrested for allegedly handing out medicated gummies to kids.
If weed candy and snacks are made fully illegal, what kind of edibles are we law-abiding adults going to be left with? THC-infused seaweed crisps? Sativa salads? These edibles companies had better start making their labels look slightly less like Doritos, because I can’t go back to a world where candy’s only side effect is a sugar rush.