Washington cannabis growers, retailers, and edible manufacturers got some unwelcome news this week when the Liquor Cannabis Board, the state agency that regulates recreational weed, quietly updated the rules about which edibles are allowed and which are not. And they did it without industry or public comment.
As Nathalie reported yesterday, as of April 3, 2019, the LCB will prohibit the sales of cannabis gummy candies, lollipops, cotton candy, brightly colored products, or anything that may be appealing children. Cannabis drinks, chips, cookies without sprinkles or icing, and chocolate balls and bars are exempt because everyone knows kids just hate those.
Diana Isaiou, the owner of American Baked Co, the first company to develop weed fruit chews, was disappointed but not shocked by the news. The LCB frequently changes rules and regulations for seemingly arbitrary reasons, and this, to Isaiou, was no exception. It is, however, bad for business: 60 percent of her company's sales are from fruit chews.
Isaiou doesn't fear going out of business, at least not yet. "I’m a chef and so I have other ideas," she said. "I’m not freaking out but it’s definitely back to square one. We were told to stop producing new products immediately."
This new rule, however, has others in the industry fearing for their livelihoods, including Jamie Hoffman, the president of Craft Elixirs and the creator of Pioneer Squares, infused fruit chews with pieces of fruit in the middle. Pioneer Squares make up 85 percent of her business. "Our plan for January 1st, 2019 is to offer medical benefits to our staff of 15 hard working employees," Hoffman said in a statement. "However, if this change will require us to stop making our Pioneer Squares, we will need to disassemble our company before year-end."
And it's not just edible-makers who should be worried. Edibles make up an estimated 10 percent of the state cannabis market, according to Isaiou. It's a valuable product for retailers (many of whom have already started stocking up) as well as for outdoor cannabis growers. Much of the sun-grown weed from eastern Washington gets processed into edibles, as well as tinctures and concentrates, and this ruling could hit those producers hard.
The ostensible reason for the LCB's decision is to protect children. But as anyone who regularly buys edibles will tell you, most of the packaging isn't just child-proof; it's almost stoner-proof. It is not easy to tear into a candy by choice, much less by accident. Plus, people who buy edibles don't typically leave them around. Weed candies are expensive; no one is going to give it out on Halloween as a joke. What's more, according to Washington Poison Control, there has been no uptick in minors being poisoned by edibles since weed became legal.
Is this rule going to save any children? Nope. What it is going to do, however, is hurt the industry as well as consumers, especially medical patients and others who may not be able to smoke. "I'm a Washington native, and this has always been a nanny state," Isaiou said. "We want to be progressive but we also tell people to be home by ten."
LCB is holding a webinar on October 16th to clarify the updated regulations, and Isaiou says she expects industry, as well as consumers, will push back. In the meantime, those who love gummy candies might want to stock up.