cannabis ban Washington

Hard Candy: What’s Happening With Washington’s Impending Ban On Weed-Infused Sweet Treats?

What’s up, Washington? Are infused candies soon being removed from retail shelves throughout the state — or aren’t they?

On October 3, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) issued a presentation, titled Marijuana Infused Candy, citing what was claimed to be concerns raised by stakeholders, board members and the general public regarding cannabis-infused candy to “ensure the products align with current and new rules prohibiting products that are especially appealing to children.”

However, days later, amid public outcry, the LCB appeared to back-pedal on the original suggestion that it was banning cannabis-infused sweet treats.

With infused edibles accounting for nine percent of cannabis revenue, Washington keeps a close eye on compliance when it comes to all consumable products available at dispensaries, candies and gummies included.

As part of its original announcement, the LCB had scheduled an online Q&A webinar for October 16 to address questions and concerns regarding the ban. This notice was met with concern and requests from the public, industry trade members and organizations alike, who demanded additional time to be heard. According to the LCB, it received requests specifically from the Washington CannaBusiness Association and The Cannabis Alliance, and soon thereafter issued the following statement, on October 14, entitled Clarification on Infused Edible Products, which appeared to do a U-turn on its initial threat of an imminent prohibition of infused edibles:

This message is to clarify the product and label presentation given during the October 3rd Board meeting and subsequent news reports.

The only rule change is the packaging and labeling rules that were adopted by the Board on May 2, 2018 (effective January 1, 2019). The rules further clarify the definition of “especially appealing to children,” simplify the required information on the label and implement the marijuana universal symbol. Due to the label rule changes all previously approved marijuana infused products that are ingested will need to be re-submitted for approval. We want to work with the industry so licensees can sell out of most of their product and that is why we will give until April 3, 2019 to sell any product on hand. When submissions are made for product and label review, you will be notified in writing if approval is not granted. Your appeal rights will also be included in that correspondence.

The agency is not banning all marijuana infused edibles. There will still be products available for consumers in the retail outlets. The recent presentation was to bring attention to the public that we are looking to ensure what we approve is aligned with our rules while ensuring public safety, first and foremost.

The initial threat of a ban stemmed from a notice published by the Washington State Legislature regarding cannabis processor licensing and requirements:

A marijuana processor is limited in the types of food or drinks they may infuse with marijuana. Marijuana-infused products that require cooking or baking by the consumer are prohibited. Marijuana-infused products that are especially appealing to children are prohibited.

According to the LCB’s October 3 document regarding infused candy, the agency performed a reevaluation of all hard candy, including tarts, jellies, fruit chews and gummy products that are presently available for purchase in the state of Washington. The criteria used when evaluating if an infused candy is appealing to children include color, appearance, and the similarity to non-infused products that are available commercially and marketed toward children. Currently, allowable infused products with limitations on appearance include chocolates, cookies, caramels and mints.

The LCB said in that statement that it will require “all production of hard candy (of any style, shape or size), tarts, fruit chews, colorful chocolates, jellies and any gummy type products be ceased as they will not qualify,” adding that, “Licensees are permitted to sell through their product(s) until existing inventory is depleted or until April 3, 2019; whichever comes first.”

So, how will processors know if products no longer qualify? The LCB is calling for all labels and products to be submitted prior to the rule change, which goes into effect January 1, 2019. Licensees will be notified in writing if their product does not meet the state requirements and will be provided information regarding their right to appeal.

The LCB, however, determined it would pause this action to allow 30 days for public comment and to draft a plan prior to enforcement, ensuring that hard candies and gummies will be lawful to sell under the January 1, 2019 rule change.

For more information on the LCB’s edible review and to ensure your opinion is noted by the board, head to the agency’s website, which currently states the planned webinar has been postponed until mid-November. This rule change will no doubt affect everyone in Washington involved in commercial cannabis, from grower to consumer. If you create, sell or buy infused candies in Washington state, let your voice be heard.

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