Cannabis treats are leaning into fall, and hard. One edibles maker is promoting fruit flavored THC “pearls” with a #highforhalloween hashtag, while another has a “Scary Savings” promotion on its CBD chocolates.
But as the growing industry starts offering seasonal promotions just like other consumer products companies, it may want to take heed of a cautionary tale from the vaping industry: Flavors, when too successful, can addict a younger generation.
As the industry matures beyond raw flower into a wider variety of products, cannabis edibles are growing fast. Headset, which tracks industry data, estimates that U.S. edibles sales rose 80% over the past two years.
Gummies, which are available in bear shapes, rainbow colors and flavors from raspberry-lemonade to exotic Hawaiian fruits, are doing particularly well, according to BDSA, a cannabis research firm. They are geared toward consumers 21 and over, but the explosion of offerings mirrors what happened in the vaping industry — which later had fruity flavors banned after they were linked to rising underage use.
It’s all happening in a bit of a regulatory void. A Food and Drug Administration meeting on CBD slated for Nov. 19 is expected to offer hints on whether the agency will view cannabis more as a food or a dietary supplement. But specifics remain up in the air.
For now, companies talk about how it’s hard to get dosing right with their cannabis edibles, but they rarely mention youth use or overdoses. According to Susan Weiss, a director of research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, accidental cannabis overdoses are up, particularly among children. And the heaviest users are 18 to 25, a critical age for neural development that cannabis use may affect.
See Also: Teenage E-Cigarette Use Falls While Flavors Remain Popular
Weiss said in a phone interview that it isn’t clear whether sweets and gummies alter the addictive potential of cannabis, “but if it gets people using products at a younger age, that creates a situation of greater risk of addiction.” Around 9% of people who use marijuana will become dependent on it, rising to about 17% in those who start using in their teens, Weiss said.
Even when it comes to non-psychoactive CBD, which hasn’t been shown to have addictive qualities, companies should err on the side of caution, said Daniel Fabricant, chief executive officer of the Natural Products Association and the former director of Dietary Supplements at the FDA. Fabricant said on a conference call last week that while there’s no definitive data yet on how CBD affects hormones or the liver — two main concerns — companies should consider dosage limits, or warnings against use by pregnant women.
At the end of the day, Fabricant said cannabis companies need to ask: “Have you taken the steps someone would expect a reasonable corporate citizen to take?”
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“We’re looking at advertising labeling and marketing properly and saying, OK, how do you keep it out of the hands of kids? How do you keep people from driving under the influence? All the stuff we’ve heard about, but we we want to be intentional about that. So that’s the first leg of our stool, and we’re not going to cut corners on that,” said Axel Bernabe, assistant counsel to New York’s governor, speaking during a webcast about the recreational marijuana bill the state intends to introduce to its budget in January.
NUMBER OF THE WEEK
- $83.9 million: Sales of edible cannabis products in the U.S. in September, representing an 80% rise over the past two years, according to Headset.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
- Colorado marijuana dispensaries failed to fight off what they’d called “bad faith” subpoenas made in IRS audits, a panel ruled.
- Canada’s cannabis stocks are expected to be winners if democrats are victorious in the U.S. this November.
- A new decree in Uruguay is giving the country more leeway in the medical cannabis trade.
- The IRS is stepping up enforcement of taxation at cannabis companies, by building specialized teams.
EVENTS THIS WEEK
- Cannagrow Harvest: Cultivation, virtual expo through 10/30
- Burns & Levinson’s Fourth Annual State of the Cannabis Industry Conference, virtual
- Kushco Holdings reports fourth-quarter results after the market closes, call scheduled for 4:30 p.m. EST