Copycat Cannabis Products Are A Public Health Concern, NYU Study Finds

According to a new study led by researchers at NYU School of Global Public Health, “copycat” edibles can have levels of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC “that far exceed the limits set by state cannabis regulations” and may be easily confused for popular snack foods.

“Edibles are a popular and growing segment of the cannabis market. In states where cannabis use is legal, more than half (56%) of people who use cannabis consume edibles, with younger people more likely to do so,” reported NYU in a recent press release. “These copycat cannabis products are a public health concern given that people—including children—could mistake them for snacks and accidentally consume them. From 2017 to 2019, U.S. Poison Control Centers handled nearly 2,000 cases of young children ages 0 to 9 consuming edibles.”

“At first glance, most of the packages look almost exactly like familiar snacks. If these copycat cannabis products are not stored safely, there is the potential for accidental ingestion by children or adults,” said Danielle Ompad, associate professor of epidemiology at NYU School of Global Public Health and lead author of the study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

In addition to Ompad, study authors include Kyle Snyder, Simon Sandh, Daniel Hagen, Emily Goldmann and Melody Goodman of NYU School of Global Public Health, Kewanda Collier of Morgan State, and Andy Tan of UPenn

Highlights Of The Study

To gain a deeper understanding of copycat edibles, the researchers collected hundreds of photos of cannabis products and analyzed their packaging, including branding, names, imagery and THC content.

  • They focused on photos for 267 edibles and found that 8% (22 photos) closely resembled 13 different snack products.
  • 12 of the products were candies or sweet snacks (fruit chews, fruit snacks, rice and marshmallow treats, and gummies) and one was a salty snack (chips). 
  • 8 of the 13 packages used the exact brand or product name of the original product; the remaining five used names that were similar (for instance, “Stoner Patch Dummies” instead of “Sour Patch Kids”).
  • 7 of the packages used the same cartoon or brand character as the original product.

Risk Of Intoxication

Most states that have legalized cannabis limit the amount of THC in edibles—typically 5 mg or 10 mg of THC per dose and 100 mg per package. According to information listed on the packaging of the lookalike products, these edibles contained an average of 459 mg of THC and a range of 300 to 600 mg per package, greatly exceeding the maximum limits.

“While each package is likely intended to include multiple doses, few packages indicate the serving size or number of servings,” said Ompad, who is also the deputy director of the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research (CDUHR) at NYU. “Moreover, if we’re considering 10 mg a standard dose, these products could contain an alarming 30 to 60 doses per package.”

‘Keep Out Of Reach From Children’

The findings highlight the risk that these copycat products could be attractive to children, given the colorful packaging and use of familiar branding and characters.

“Policies to prevent cannabis packaging from appealing to children haven’t stopped copycat products from entering the market—nor have food brands taken legal action against cannabis companies for copyright infringement,” said Ompad. “People who purchase edibles that look like snack foods should store them separately from regular snacks and out of reach of children.”

States have taken preventive measures to protect kids from consuming cannabis. Colorado, for example, has a law banning marijuana edibles that are shaped like humans. HB 1436, a bill passed in 2016, aimed to ban THC-infused lemon drops, gummy bears, and other edibles that might attract children and prohibit the production or sale of edibles in the shape of a human, animal, or fruit for medical and retail marijuana-infused product manufacturers and dispensaries.

That is why Mike Tyson’s ear-shaped edibles, “Mike Bites,” a new product launched in March, will not be allowed in Colorado in their current form and will be manufactured in the shape of a "T".
Come meet Mike Tyson in person at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach on April 20-21, 2022, where you can also get to know the amazing who's who of the entire industry. Still don't have your tickets? Get them HERE.

Photo via NYU. 

Posted In: CannabisNewsHealth CareMarketsGeneralcannabis copycat edibleschildrenNYUStudyTHC

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