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At first glance, the Skittles package appears to be just like the one sold in the candy aisle of a supermarket: It has block letters filled in with white, a flowing rainbow and a red candy that replaces the dot above the letter “i.”
A closer look reveals some small differences: a background pattern of small, stylized marijuana leaves; a warning label; and numbers that reveal the amount of THC, the intoxicating substance in cannabis, in each piece of candy.
The images are included in a lawsuit that the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, owned by the candy behemoth Mars Inc., filed in May against five companies for selling cannabis-infused edibles that look like our old friends Skittles, Starburst and Life Savers. Though the suit focuses on intellectual property rights, the plaintiffs also argue that the copycat products could lead people, particularly children, to mistakenly ingest drugs.
recreational marijuana consumption roamed by pandemic-stressed adults.
In recent years, lawsuits similar to the one filed by Wrigley have been brought by the Hershey Company (against TinctureBelle for products resembling Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Heath bars, Almond Joy bars and York peppermint patties), Mondelez International (against a company hawking Stoney Patch Kids) and Ferrara Candy Company (against a store selling Medicated Nerds Rope). These lawsuits have all been settled, with the smaller companies agreeing to halt production and sales of the offending products.
Many public health officials fret that without proper regulation, accidental ingestion cases will continue to rise among children as the availability of edibles grows. Some poison control centers have already observed this trend in their data.
For example, there were 122 cases of exposure to THC for children under 5 in Washington State in the first nine months of 2020, compared to 85 for the same time period in 2019. The most common side effects reported included vomiting, lethargy and chest pain.
the illegal market is still thriving.
“When companies like these create headlines for doing what we’ve purposely avoided at Wana, I feel anger and frustration,” said Joe Hodas, the chief marketing officer at Wana Brands, a Colorado company that sells cannabis-infused products.
A recent review of the websites belonging to defendants in the Wrigley suit turned up cannabis-infused offerings like Stoner Patch Dummies, the Worlds Dankest Gushers, Gasheads Xtremes Sourfuls, Trips Ahoy, Buttafingazzz and Caribo Happy Cola.
“The situation has become more and more egregious,” said Christopher Gindlesperger, a spokesman for the National Confectioners Association, a trade organization in D.C. with 350 members, including Mars Inc., Hershey’s, Ferrara and Mondelez. “The cannabis companies cannot and should not be allowed to tarnish existing brands at will. It creates consumer confusion.”