Marijuana Leaf

Bipartisan group of attorneys general urge crackdown on THC ‘copycat’ products

Tyler Arnold | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – A bipartisan group of attorneys general from 21 states are urging Congress to crack down on THC-infused edibles that look like popular snack items consumed by children.

Tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly shortened to THC, is the chemical contained in marijuana that produces the “high” feeling. Between Jan. 1 and May 31 this year, more than three-fourths of calls to the National Poison Control Center regarding single substance exposure from THC edibles were for patients 19 years old or younger, according to the FDA. That was out of 10,448 total calls.

The attorneys general are requesting that Congress allow trademark holders to hold people accountable if they produce THC products that use packaging and branding that mimic popular snack food brands.

“As states across the country, including my own, take steps to legalize and regulate cannabis, rules have been put in place to protect children from unwitting consumption,” Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, who co-led the coalition, said in a statement.

“However, there are those who attempt to work around these rules,” Ford added. “Copycat products that mimic snacks and candy trademarks can entice children, leading to situations that can threaten their health and safety. We urge Congress to pass legislation granting these trademark holders the legal tools needed to hold these counterfeiters accountable.”

In their letter, the attorneys general wrote that unlicensed people and businesses have produced products that have package designs like major snack brands, such as Doritos, Cheetos, Oreos, Sour Patch Kids, Nerds, and others. According to the attorneys general, the products often contain higher levels of THC than allowed by state laws. They claimed that these products are intentionally designed to market these products to children.

The letter provided examples of when children inadvertently ate THC-infused products. On March 2, in Virginia, three Virginia parents took their children to the hospital after they ate THC-infused snacks that resembled goldfish at their childcare facility. On August 3 in Indiana, a toddler was hospitalized after eating a bag of THC-infused snacks that looked like Cheetos, which had more than 600 milligrams of THC.

“As THC infused edibles become commonplace, some distributors have started advertising their products to look like popular candy and snack items,” Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, who also co-led the effort, said in a statement.

“Their deceiving appearance and packaging can confuse young children who come across them and has led to an increase in accidental consumption, putting their health at risk,” Miyares added. “To address this growing issue, I’m urging Congress, with a bipartisan coalition, for a comprehensive legislative solution.”

The letter noted that the attorneys general are not all in agreement on the best regulations for THC products, but that they do agree that “copycat” THC edibles are a risk to children.

JM Pedini, the Virginia director for NORML, a group that supports the legalization of recreational marijuana, agreed with the crux of the letter. 

“Unregulated cannabis products packaged to look like famous brands pose not only a substantial risk to children, but to adults as well," Pedini told The Center Square. 

"Consumers deserve to know what they’re purchasing, and far too often what’s on the label is not what’s in the package,” Pedini added "We are proud to have assisted Virginia in taking direct policy action to prohibit lookalike packaging and to provide consumers harmed by such deceptive products recourse through the Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protections." 

Attorneys general from Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington signed onto the letter.