On Tuesday, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) held its regularly-scheduled board meeting where they dropped a bombshell: a large quantity of marijuana infused edibles that have already been approved for production and sale in Washington will no longer be approved. When this new policy is implemented––it will be a part of rules changes effective January 1, 2019––processors will be directed to immediately cease production of disqualified edibles. Retailers will be permitted to sell through their existing inventory until April 3, 2019, at which point all disqualified edibles will be required to be destroyed pursuant to state code. The WSLCB cited concerns brought by itself, stakeholders, and the general public that these products are too appealing to children.
WSLCB staffers presenting explained that in response to these concerns, the WSLCB reevaluated all approved marijuana infused candy products “to ensure the products align with current and new rules prohibiting products that are especially appealing to children.”
I. Products Allowed
The WSLCB decided that the following products will no longer qualify under the revised rules:
- Hard candy and tarts of any style, shape, or size
- Fruit chews, jellies, and all gummy type products
Infused edibles that would remain allowable include:
- Baked goods
- Chips and crackers
- Sauces and spices
The following would be allowed with limitations on appearance:
These limitations mean chocolate, mints or caramels in their original color (and not coated with any color) would be allowed, along with chocolate in the shape of a bar or ball, but with no shape or design “especially appealing to children.”
The phrase “especially appealing to children” is directly pulled from WAC 314-55-077 and is found elsewhere in the administrative code. I also personally worked on research on this subject when I directed the UW Law’s Cannabis Law & Policy Project over two years ago.
II. An Inconsistent Policy
It is astonishing that the WSLCB is changing course on their current policy to further restrict edibles six years after cannabis was legalized in Washington. How many companies have relied on the WSLCB’s approval of their products only to discover that their products are no longer legal? This policy shift will further damage an already struggling industry. As California and Canada implement their own legalization policies, business owners will increasingly seek out markets with less draconian regulations. Many of us working with this industry fear that Washington––initially seen as a leader on legalization––will be left behind as other states and countries adopt more commonsense regulations.
The operative question I have is, how are hard candies and fruit chews especially appealing to children, but chocolate and cookies are not? Industry insiders agree: “I’m concerned that whole categories of products are being tossed out categorically. I don’t see how a chew is inherently more enticing to a child than a cookie. Children love cookies,” says Logan Bowers, owner of Hashtag Cannabis.
The new policy is in response to supposed increased concern from the WSLCB itself and the public, but where exactly is the concern? And of those concerned, isn’t chocolate and baked goods just as concerning as hard candies? The new policy is entirely inconsistent.
III. More Information
The WSLCB will host a webinar on October 16, 2018 to answer questions regarding this policy. A link to register will be available at lcb.wa.gov. If you are in the industry, you might consider taking part.
UPDATE: Seattle Times has just picked up on this information, and published their own article. Read more here.