Major Food Brands Call For Crackdown on THC Copycat Products

A group of major food and drink companies want Congress to do something about cannabis-infused copycat products.

A group of a dozen major food companies called on Congress last week to rein in the growing number of THC-infused copycat knockoffs. 

Such products have become prevalent in cannabis businesses across America. On the surface, they simply look like some of the country’s best-known junk food such as Cheetos and Oreos.

But looks—even iconic packaging—can be deceiving, and a closer inspection of the labels reveals that the foodstuffs are a cause, rather than a cure, for the munchies. 

Some products, such as the Oreo-inspired “Stoneos,” are explicit, but others are more subtle. And according to the Washington Post, many “of the copycat packages list no manufacturer, so tracing them is hard.”

Now, a coalition of food and beverage giants—including Pepsi, Kellogg and General Mills—are urging Congress to add an amendment to the Shop Safe Act, a bill that “aims to reduce the availability of harmful counterfeit products.” 

In a letter to Congress last week, the companies said that the legislation’s current language “creates liability for electronic commerce platforms for advertising, sale or distribution of goods with counterfeit marks that ‘implicate health and safety.’”

“Unfortunately, this language does not prohibit sale of the above packaging and products due to the technical definition of counterfeit marks,” the letter to Congress read. “This should be amended to include ‘famous’ marks, a term already defined in U.S. code, to extend this protection and deter the sale of these copycat THC items which clearly ‘implicate health and safety’ of children. This change is critical because it closes a loophole in the existing language to address a critical health and safety issue. We urge your support.”

The products have become ubiquitous in the United States, with nearly a dozen states now permitting regulated adult-use cannabis sales. 

“Children are increasingly threatened by the unscrupulous use of famous brand logos, characters, trademarks, and trade dress on THC-laced edible products. While cannabis (and incidental amounts of THC) may be legal in some states, the use of these famous marks, clearly without approval of the brand owners, on food products has created serious health and safety risks for consumers, particularly children, who cannot tell the difference between these brands’ true products and copycat THC products that leverage the brand’s fame for profit,” the companies wrote in the letter.

“While law enforcement focuses on addressing illegal sales, this unscrupulous practice has pointed out a gap in existing law—the widespread online sale of packaging that leverages these famous Brands. These are real examples of packaging that infringe on famous brands that have been removed from the market. But without Congressional action, they are quickly replaced by other unscrupulous sellers,” they continued. 

Katie Denis, a spokeswoman for the Consumer Brands Association, another one of the companies that signed the letter last week, told the Washington Post that one of the challenges is that many of the knockoff products are sold on the internet, making it difficult to curtail their availability. 

The Washington Post reported that Denis “said that in many cases, there are new companies whose sole mission is to make spoof packaging that looks like major brands, often with stoner puns and jokes woven in (in the style of Wacky Packages trading cards in the 1970s that parodied consumer products),” and that producers “buy the empty bags online and fill them with drug-infused product.”

“In drug busts, they are finding these empty mylar bags,” Denis said. “It’s not always clear you could take legal action against the manufacturer of those empty bags.”

Other companies to sign the letter include SNAC International, American Herbal Products Association, Corn Refiners Association, The Association for Dressings & Sauces, and the Juice Products Association.

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