The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board announced that it would temporarily postpone its marijuana-infused gummies and hard candies prohibition for a 30-day period, allowing time for industry members and the public to propose alternatives for the WSLCB to consider.
Following a presentation on marijuana-infused candy at the regularly scheduled WSLCB meeting earlier this month, the board announced that it would hold a product and label review of all hard candy and gummy edibles, citing that these products failed to adhere to Washington state rules regarding edibles.
A strict interpretation of the rules
Enacted in 2015, Washington state rule WAC 314-55-077(7) reads as follows:
A marijuana processor is limited in the types of food or drinks they may infuse with marijuana. Marijuana-infused products that are especially appealing to children are prohibited. Marijuana-infused edible products such as, but not limited to, gummy candies, lollipops, cotton candy, or brightly colored products, are prohibited.
In the past, WSLCB regulators approved products which fit a strict interpretation of this regulation such as cannabis-infused fruit chews.
Following the WSLCB meeting on marijuana-infused candy, the WSLCB sent a message to marijuana retailer licensees to address concerns regarding edible candies and provide clarification on what was allowable regarding infused edible products.
The WSLCB shouldered the blame in the message. “During our reevaluation, it was found that we had approved marijuana-infused edibles that could be deemed especially appealing to children,” they stated. “Preventing infused edibles that would be especially appealing to children and youth has always been a high priority of the Board.”
Washington laws surrounding edibles have not changed since 2015; however, the WSLCB adopted new packaging and labeling requirements in May 2018. The new rules require that marijuana products must use the universal marijuana symbol on their packaging, effective January 1, 2019.
While that small change in labeling requirements may seem insignificant, the WSLCB stated in the message that “all previously approved marijuana-infused products that are ingested will need to be re-submitted for approval.”
A small concession from the WSLCB
Owing to the quick turnaround time, the WSLCB did concede to give retail licensees until April 3, 2019, to sell any edible products on hand and clarified that the “agency is not banning all marijuana-infused edibles. There will still be products available for consumers in the retail outlets.”
According to the WSLCB, edibles make up 9 percent of the marijuana products sold in Washington, and just a fraction of those products are candies. However, there are companies which rely on edibles as a significant source of revenue.
When the WSLCB quietly made the announcement for a product and packaging review of gummies and hard-candies, the agency originally hoped to avoid a public comment period. The WSLCB argued that a public comment period, which would normally be mandatory for a rule change, was not required as they were reinterpreting and implementing a set of existing rules.
The halting of the product and package review only came after the WSLCB held additional conversations with cannabis industry members and trade organizations.
The WSLCB received a letter from a coalition of members from CORE, the Cannabis Alliance, and the Washington Cannabusiness Association, formally requesting the cessation of the product review and time for a public comment period.
WSLCB Agency Director Rick Garza accepted their proposal, stating, “In conversations with industry members, we agreed to pause the product and label review process to consider any alternative proposals from the industry.”
Edible product developers and consumers alike must wonder if this delay will save cannabis-infused edibles or if they’re headed to retail-extinction.