Candy Companies Are Fighting Back Against Cannabis-Infused Knockoffs
Cannabis legalization has created a whole new world of culinary opportunities: whether it's making cannabis-infused chocolate pretzel cookies in the privacy of your own home or showing your love of cooking with THC to the world by appearing on Chopped 420. But just because marijuana is finally legal across much of America, doesn't mean that you can make anything you want out of weed and get away with it. And if your product is an unofficial cannabis spin on a popular candy, don't be surprised if the brand tells you to knock it off with your knockoff.
Earlier this month, the Wrigley Company filed three lawsuits in federal courts in Illinois and California against three cannabis brands—Terphogz LLC, Packaging Papi LLC, and 2020Ediblez—alleging that these companies are illegally infringing on their trademarks by selling THC-spiked products that resemble common candy brands like Skittles, Life Savers, and Starbursts. Furthermore, Wrigley suggests that these knockoff products undermine their entire company since, unlike non-drug-enhanced candies, cannabis products can't legally be consumed by children.
"At Mars Wrigley we take great pride in making fun treats that parents can trust giving to their children and children can enjoy safely," a spokesperson told Reuters. "We are deeply disturbed to see our trademarked brands being used illegally to sell THC-infused products."
The New York Times recently reviewed the images included within the lawsuit, and the similarities in the packaging are striking: a Zombie Skittles label where the artwork is nearly identical except for small marijuana leaves in the background, a "Cannaburst" sour gummies label with a color scheme and design not far off from Starbursts, and a Life Savers package where the only major tipoffs to the differences are the words "medicated" and "THC."
The Times also points out that these kinds of lawsuits are far from new: Hershey, Mondelez, and Ferrara have all targeted similar knockoffs in the past, with the cannabis companies ultimately backing down. Still, Christopher Gindlesperger, a spokesman for the National Confectioners Association—which boasts all the above candy companies as members—told the paper things aren't getting particularly better. "The situation has become more and more egregious," he was quoted as saying. "The cannabis companies cannot and should not be allowed to tarnish existing brands at will. It creates consumer confusion."
So why do these edible makers think they can get away with it? The simple answer is that old habits die hard, and back when early marijuana legalization first put the drug into a legal gray area, producers didn't necessarily worry about the trademarks of global confectionary giants. "Five or ten years ago when cannabis was starting to take off, it was a joke to have something like Cap'n Punch, a cereal that's infused," Henry Wykowski, lawyer who also teaches about cannabis law, told the Times. "But the industry has matured, and the people who know what they're doing no longer engage in that kind of conduct."
However, based on these lawsuits, it would seem the industry still has some maturing left to do.