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Critics Blame Flavored Cannabis Products for Targeting Kids

Experts are becoming more concerned over the popularity of cannabis products that taste like candy and others that appeal to kids in legal states. 

Part of the uproar was spurred when a New York official showed a watermelon-flavored cannabis edible product to the local media amid the state’s first days of adult-use cannabis sales, taking place earlier this month.

The Associated PressReports indicate that there is increasing pressure on the government to tackle how cannabis products are allegedly targeting children. Many experts have weighed in, including those with experience in tobacco control research and epidemiology.

“We should learn from the nicotine space, and I certainly would advocate that we should place similar concern on cannabis products in terms of their appealability to youth,” said Katherine Keyes, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University.

“If you go through a cannabis dispensary right now,” she said, “it’s almost absurd how youth oriented a lot of the packaging and the products are.” 

New York’s adult-use cannabis market recently kicked off. The state’s adult-use law bans marketing and advertising that is designed in any way that appeals to children or other minors.

But the state’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) has not yet established defined rules on labeling, packaging, and advertising. What does a ban look to you? One concept would ban the use of images of candy, food, soda, and other drinks on their packaging. OCM officials think these images might appeal to minors.

“Consumers need to be aware—parents need to be aware—if they see products that look like other products that are commonly marketed to kids, that’s an illicit market product,” said Lyla Hunt, OCM’s deputy director of public health and campaigns.

But when OCM Chief Chris Alexander showed a watermelon-flavored edible product to the media at New York’s first licensed adult-use cannabis store, people’s heads were rolling.

New York law states that minors can be caught possessing cannabis. The maximum civil penalty is $50. Adults who sell cannabis to minors may be fined and their licenses could be revoked. However, they will not go to jail.

“When you’re talking about strawberry-cheesecake, or mango, or cookies-and-cream flavors, it’s very difficult to argue that those are for older adults,” said Dr. Pamela Ling, the director for the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California in San Francisco.

“Folks who consider themselves to be more like cannabis aficionados,” she said, “would say that smoking a flavored cannabis product is like putting ketchup on your steak.”

Haven’t We Heard this Before?

“Won’t somebody please think of the children?” Helen Lovejoy said on The Simpsons. Most adults store cannabis products in a place that’s out of reach from children and teenagers.

In many other states, bans similar to those on tobacco products were implemented in the recent years. This same panic has infiltrated the cannabis market.

California’s ban on flavored tobacco products took effect just weeks ago. The state’s particular ban went further to ban menthol cigarettes.

In Massachusetts in 2019, members of the state’s House of Representatives voted to prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco and vape products. And that’s not all. All vaping products remaining legal are subject to an additional 75 percent excise tax. 

Governor. Kate Brown proposed to ban flavor vape cartridges in Oregon. But then the Oregon Court of Appeals sided with Dyme Distribution, a cannabis company that’s suing the state over its ban on cannabis vaping products. 

Teens are less inclined to smoke cigarettes, while vaping and e-cigarettes have increased in popularity. Cannabis products are the new subject of regulation.