Marijuana edibles, like gummy candies, cookies, brownies and chocolate bars, look and, many would argue, actually taste delicious.
However, regulators don’t want the packaging to broadcast that. They fear it is contributes to the risk that an unsuspecting child will pick one up, have a bite and become ill.
The Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency has long had rules in place to try and avoid such confusion but they are revisiting the issue with an advisory bulletin was issued Monday morning.
“The (Marijuana Regulatory Agency) is aware of many non-compliant marijuana-infused edible packaging and products available in the market today,” the bulletin said. “Some of the marijuana packages that appeal to children have images of fruit, animals, or food on the packaging. Others use words that are commonly used in commercial candy such as ‘milk chocolate,’ ‘peanut butter,’ ‘gummies,’ or ‘chews’ without using the words ‘THC,’ ‘marijuana,’ or ‘cannabis’ as modifiers.”
Marijuana Regulatory Agency spokesman David Harns said one of the reasons the notice is being issued now is the agency has been alerted to a rise in noncompliant packaging, especially since coronavirus concerns have diminished and more agency inspectors are in the field visiting retail stores and processing facilities.
Harns said there are no imminent plans to take product off the shelves if they are packaged in violation of the rules, but retailers and manufactures must correct the problem.
Retail locations have the option of placing stickers over the non-compliant portions of the packaging, destroying the product or returning it to the manufacturer by way of a licensed marijuana transportation company.
“Marijuana businesses choosing to use adhering non-transparent stickers as a solution to fixing noncompliant packaging must ensure the stickers are attached to the marijuana-infused edible product packaging before the product is sold to customers,” the Marijuana Regulatory Agency said. “Adhering stickers to the product after customer purchase is a violation.”
The Marijuana Regulatory Agency does not review packaging before it hits shelves but does offer to do so by request. Harns said requests for packaging rule guidelines or review may be sent to MRAfirstname.lastname@example.org.
Producers with finished, packaged product that is in violation of the rules may choose to repackage the products ensuring that it is clearly labeled as a marijuana product “using the same or larger font as the words commonly used in commercial candy,” or they may cover up the noncompliant sections of the packages with stickers.
“We need to remain vigilant in protecting children from accidentally ingesting marijuana products,” Marijuana Regulatory Agency Director Andrew Brisbo said. “When the products leave the stores, it is important that the packaging is not attractive to minors. Obviously, nothing we can do is as impactful as the watchful eyes of adults, but we want parents in Michigan to know that we are doing everything in our power to prevent children from unknowingly consuming marijuana products.”
Both of the industry’s major trade organizations, the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association and the Michigan Cannabis Manufacturers Association, voiced support for the reminder.
Robin Schneider, director of the the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association, also noted marijuana consumers with children should “take personal responsibility and utilize lock boxes which are readily available at most local health departments for free with no questions asked.”
“The Michigan Poison and Drug Information Center has seen a noticeable increase in pediatric ingestions of cannabis products over the last few years,” Michigan Poison and Drug Information Center Director Varun Vohra said. “The increased prevalence is consistent with decreases in cannabis prohibition on medical and recreational use, and therefore increased accessibility”.
“Notably, there was also a significant increase in exposures involving young children aged 5 years or younger. The COVID-19 pandemic caused abrupt changes in the school and home environment, placing children at even higher risk of exposure to household items.”