Vials at Phyto-Farma, a cannabis testing facility in Warwick, New York. Opening a black shell case to display his wares on an early May afternoon, a marijuana dealer in Brooklyn began pulling out a wide variety of edibles that were nestled among vape pens and jars of flower. Some products were obviously homemade — but with packaging that appropriated popular brand names.
Round, multi-colored “Skittles” gummies came in a plastic jar, and the “Pez” hard candies were sold in little tins. A chocolate bar with a Hershey’s logo was labeled “600 milligrams per bar,” presumably of THC, the ingredient in cannabis that gets you high.
Among the products offered by this citywide delivery service, smokeable flower is still the most popular. But edibles now make up 30% to 40% of sales, according to its operator, who spoke with Gothamist but asked to be anonymous because he sells marijuana illegally.
New York only legalized marijuana in March 2021, and the state has yet to issue licenses for non-medical dispensaries. But that hasn’t stopped an explosion of edibles from entering the market in recent years. As state-by-state legalization has introduced packaged edibles to other parts of the country over the past decade or so, it has sparked consumer demand — and confectionary creativity among cannabis purveyors — in legal and non-legal markets alike.
But edibles have also gained more attention from politicians and regulators in recent years who say playful packaging is too appealing to kids who could accidentally ingest large amounts of THC. Poison centers in New York have issued warnings as recently as last summer about children and teens eating edibles that look like candy.
As some packaging becomes more sophisticated, there may be confusion among some adults as well. The delivery service operator Gothamist spoke to, for instance, sells strawberry-flavored sour belts, packaged in a sleek, opaque zip-lock bag like the ones commonly used for cannabis products sold in licensed dispensaries.
This particular bag features the name of a regulated cannabis brand based in California and an official-looking warning telling users to “Keep out of reach of animals and children.” But the amount of THC listed — 1,000 milligrams for the whole bag — suggests that it is a copycat. That’s 10 times the amount of THC per package that California allows.
New York has yet to develop its rules around edibles, but New Jersey recently opened its first licensed dispensaries with only clinical-looking ingestible products such as lozenges and capsules and a 100-milligram cap on the THC content per package.
Yet as regulators seek to restrict the potency and types of edibles sold in licensed dispensaries, the broader market for ingestible cannabis is only getting more varied and innovative.
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