Instead of using legalization to dominate the edibles game, we’re seeing Hershey suing cannabis companies.
The Hershey Co. is one of the most famous chocolate and candy makers in the world. But the Fortune 500 company is also known for something else: suing other companies for perceived copyright infringement. In fact, Hershey’s has made a number of such allegations over the course of its history. Most recently, the company has started going after legal weed businesses. With Hershey suing cannabis companies, many are wondering if the company is using aggressive tactics to squeeze money out of the still-young cannabis industry.
Apparently, Hershey’s sent cease-and-desist letters to an Oakland dispensary called Harborside and a California edibles company called Good Girl Cannabis Co. Hershey’s claimed that the companies were making or selling products with branding that looked too similar to Hershey’s products.
Good Girl Cannabis reportedly cleared things up quickly. But Harborside decided to fight back. Hershey’s allegedly demanded that the shop pay $20,000 for “liquidated damages.” Hershey’s also demanded that Harborside sign a confidentiality agreement. But the dispensary refused and the case was eventually dismissed.
A key piece of Hershey’s gripe against Harborside was that the shop sold edibles made by a company called Jolly Meds. The CBD-rich candy edibles apparently looked too much like Jolly Ranchers for Hershey’s liking. Even though Hershey’s did not target Jolly Meds, the company eventually changed its name to J:Meds.
Meanwhile, Hershey’s continued pressing its case against Harborside. The dispensary’s management and legal teams said it didn’t make sense for Hershey’s to go after them since they were just selling the candies, not making them. Ultimately, Harborside concluded that Hershey’s was trying to intimidate them.
“We stood up to the federal Department of Justice when they tried to close us down [in 2012],” said Harborside Executive Director Steve DeAngelo. “We are certainly not going to be intimidated by a candy company.”
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about Hershey suing cannabis companies. In 2014, the company sued a Colorado-based edibles company called Tincture Belle.
Hershey’s complained about the company’s products Ganja Joy, Hasheath, and Dabby Patty. The chocolate company claimed that these products looked too much like Almond Joy, Heath and York Peppermint Patties. Hershey’s won that lawsuit.
But Hershey’s most recent attempt to go after the Harborside dispensary was less successful. Now, many in the cannabis industry see the suit as evidence that Hershey’s is trying to squeeze young weed companies. At the same time, many also see Harborside as an example of how to fight back.
Jeffrey Kolsky, owner of the company formerly called Jolly Meds, said Hershey’s was using “predatory practices.”
“It was very apparent that this was a game they were playing, that they were trying to get money where they could,” he said. “I think what it took was somebody standing up to Hershey’s with money and saying, ‘We’re calling you out on this. This is wrong.'”
The tensions between Hershey’s and various weed companies could highlight some of the growing pains of the young legal cannabis industry.
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