Candy Makers Sue THC Lookalikes

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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.”

joined the list), and 18 of them, including New York, have legalized recreational marijuana as well. Though sales in New York are not expected to begin until 2022 at the earliest, businesses are rushing to grab real estate and prepare for the market’s opening. Some are already selling Delta-8-THC, derived from hemp, in candy form.

an infamous commercial spot.

considered 1 to 2 milligrams of THC, but effects vary based on many factors, like body weight and how much food the consumer ate that day.

Accidental consumption can affect anyone, but, Dr. Schauer said, “it has primarily impacted children because they can confuse cannabis edible products with other edible products, because most edibles look like candy or cookies or cake.” She pointed to reports compiled by poison control centers in Colorado and Washington, the two earliest states to legalize recreational cannabis use, in 2012.

Between 2014 and 2018, annual calls to the Washington Poison Center about children under 5 being unintentionally exposed to cannabis nearly tripled, rising from 34 to 94. In 2017, Washington State began requiring that all edibles have a logo stating “Not for Kids” (not that this will mean much to a 2-year-old).

edibles are the leading method by which children under 5 accidentally consume cannabis. In 2019, in Colorado, 108 people under the age of 19 were accidentally exposed to cannabis. In 2011, the year before the state legalized recreational use, that number was 16.

Like Washington, Colorado now requires packaging of edibles to include a warning symbol. The state also bans the use of the word “candy” on any marijuana packaging, and the sale of edibles that look like people, animals or fruit.

Dr. Schauer said other ways to reduce the risks of accidental ingestion include mandating childproof packaging, requiring that each edible item in a package is individually wrapped, limiting the potency of each individual edible, and educating consumers who live with children on how to store their cannabis products.

Making packages that will not catch the eye of a child is important, she said. In Canada, for example, where cannabis is legal, federal law requires packaging to have a uniform color and a smooth texture, and not to have cutout windows, scents, sounds or inserts (among other requirements).

Despite the stringency of Canada’s laws, as recently as mid-May, a child was hospitalized in the province of New Brunswick after eating Stoneo cookies that were made to look like Oreos, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

In America, state laws are far less strict; for the most part, they prohibit the inclusion of cartoon characters and make general statements about how the packaging should not appeal to a child.

“The risks can be much more limited than we’ve seen them be so far,” Dr. Schauer said.

Mr. Hodas has three children, aged 12, 17 and 19. He has been in the cannabis industry for more than seven years. When he has products at home, he keeps them secure in bags made by StashLogix. It may not slow down a motivated 15-year-old, but it will stop a toddler, he said.

“If you have it locked up, and you keep in a place where they can’t reach it or see it, that’s the best way to prevent ingestion,” Mr. Hodas said.

To parents of a certain age, the situation may bring to mind the 1983 public service announcement “We’re Not Candy,” in which a barbershop quartet of singing pills on television advises children “to have a healthy fear of us.”

That the products now under scrutiny are a form of candy, just enhanced — and that no one is watching the same screen anymore — makes it difficult to imagine a marijuana meme so memorable.

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Big Candy Is Angry at Look-Alike THC Treats

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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.”

joined the list), and 18 of them, including New York, have legalized recreational marijuana as well. Though sales in New York are not expected to begin until 2022 at the earliest, businesses are rushing to grab real estate and prepare for the market’s opening. Some are already selling Delta-8-THC, derived from hemp, in candy form.

an infamous commercial spot.

considered 1 to 2 milligrams of THC, but effects vary based on many factors, like body weight and how much food the consumer ate that day.

Accidental consumption can affect anyone, but, Dr. Schauer said, “it has primarily impacted children because they can confuse cannabis edible products with other edible products, because most edibles look like candy or cookies or cake.” She pointed to reports compiled by poison control centers in Colorado and Washington, the two earliest states to legalize recreational cannabis use, in 2012.

Between 2014 and 2018, annual calls to the Washington Poison Center about children under 5 being unintentionally exposed to cannabis nearly tripled, rising from 34 to 94. In 2017, Washington State began requiring that all edibles have a logo stating “Not for Kids” (not that this will mean much to a 2-year-old).

edibles are the leading method by which children under 5 accidentally consume cannabis. In 2019, in Colorado, 108 people under the age of 19 were accidentally exposed to cannabis. In 2011, the year before the state legalized recreational use, that number was 16.

Like Washington, Colorado now requires packaging of edibles to include a warning symbol. The state also bans the use of the word “candy” on any marijuana packaging, and the sale of edibles that look like people, animals or fruit.

Dr. Schauer said other ways to reduce the risks of accidental ingestion include mandating childproof packaging, requiring that each edible item in a package is individually wrapped, limiting the potency of each individual edible, and educating consumers who live with children on how to store their cannabis products.

Making packages that will not catch the eye of a child is important, she said. In Canada, for example, where cannabis is legal, federal law requires packaging to have a uniform color and a smooth texture, and not to have cutout windows, scents, sounds or inserts (among other requirements).

Despite the stringency of Canada’s laws, as recently as mid-May, a child was hospitalized in the province of New Brunswick after eating Stoneo cookies that were made to look like Oreos, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

In America, state laws are far less strict; for the most part, they prohibit the inclusion of cartoon characters and make general statements about how the packaging should not appeal to a child.

“The risks can be much more limited than we’ve seen them be so far,” Dr. Schauer said.

Mr. Hodas has three children, aged 12, 17 and 19. He has been in the cannabis industry for more than seven years. When he has products at home, he keeps them secure in bags made by StashLogix. It may not slow down a motivated 15-year-old, but it will stop a toddler, he said.

“If you have it locked up, and you keep in a place where they can’t reach it or see it, that’s the best way to prevent ingestion,” Mr. Hodas said.

To parents of a certain age, the situation may bring to mind the 1983 public service announcement “We’re Not Candy,” in which a barbershop quartet of singing pills on television advises children “to have a healthy fear of us.”

That the products now under scrutiny are a form of candy, just enhanced — and that no one is watching the same screen anymore — makes it difficult to imagine a marijuana meme so memorable.

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China Releases First Photos From Its Mars Lander

Four days after landing a spacecraft on Mars, China’s space agency released its first photographs from the red planet on Wednesday, announcing that the mission was going as planned.

The four-day wait for the images — one in color, one in black and white — had prompted speculation that something might have gone wrong with the landing on Saturday. When China’s space agency issued a statement in response to those concerns on Tuesday, urging patience, the response online was biting.

“Can’t you learn from NASA propaganda?” one user wrote beneath the statement, seeming to chide the agency with a comparison to NASA’s live broadcasts of its latest mission on Mars, which began in February.

very briefly, the Soviet Union. It was the latest in a series of major milestones, including missions to the moon and the start of construction of a new orbiting space station, that have secured China’s status as a space power. (China was expected to launch a second module for the space station later Wednesday or on Thursday.)

Since Saturday, the China National Space Administration had divulged little about the Mars mission’s progress. It said on Wednesday that the components of the lander and the rover, including its solar panels, had “deployed in place normally.”

two brief videos of the lander departing the orbiter that carried the craft to Mars. The agency’s statement said that the orbiter had braked into a new orbit on Monday, from which it could establish a stable communication link. It said that the rover was carrying out preparations to trundle down the ramp and began its exploration.

Zhurong is carrying a number of instruments to study the planet’s topography, geology and atmosphere. One goal is to understand the distribution of ice in the region, which, in theory, could someday help sustain visits by people.

Claire Fu contributed research.

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China’s Ambitious Plans in Space: The Moon, Mars and Beyond

China’s launch in April of the main module for its newest orbiting space station drew more international attention than expected — for the wrong reasons. After reaching orbit, the main rocket booster tumbled ominously back to Earth in what is called an “uncontrolled re-entry.” The debris landed in the Indian Ocean in May, narrowly missing the Maldives and spurring criticism of how China carries out the launches of its heaviest rocket, the Long March 5B.

More launches like it are coming anyway. The mission was the first of 11 needed to build China’s third, and most ambitious, space station by the end of 2022. Two more Long March 5B rockets will carry additional modules, and other variants will launch smaller parts. Four missions, one planned for June, will return Chinese astronauts to space after more than four years.

China’s first two space stations were short-lived prototypes, but this one is intended to function for a decade or longer. Mr. Xi, the Chinese leader, compared it to the “two bombs, one satellite” exhortation of Mao Zedong’s era, which referred to China’s race to develop a nuclear weapon, mount it on an intercontinental ballistic missile and put a satellite in orbit. Like all of China’s accomplishments in space, it is being touted as evidence of the prowess of the Communist Party-run state.

The International Space Station, jointly developed by the United States, Russia and others, is nearing the end of its intended life in 2024. What happens after that is unclear. NASA has proposed keeping the station going for a few more years; Russia has announced that it intends to withdraw by 2025.

If the station is decommissioned, China’s could be the only game in town for some time.

The station — named, like the first two, Tiangong, or “Heavenly Palace” — will be able to house three astronauts for long-term missions and as many as six for shorter periods. China has selected a team of 18 astronauts, some of whom are civilians (only one is a woman). The first three are scheduled to spend three months in space, which would surpass the 33-day record for Chinese astronauts set in 2016.

Hao Chun, the director of China’s Manned Space Agency, told state news media that astronauts from other nations would be allowed to visit, whether aboard Chinese spacecraft or their own, though they would need a docking mechanism “in line with Chinese standards,” which are different from those on the International Space Station. He said some foreign astronauts were already learning Mandarin in preparation.

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China’s Rocket Debris Landed Near Maldives: Here’s What to Know

Debris from a large Chinese rocket landed in the Indian Ocean near the Maldives early Sunday morning, China’s space administration announced.

It said most of the debris had burned up on re-entry. It was not immediately clear whether any of what remained had landed on any of the Maldives’s 1,192 islands.

The possibility, however slight, that debris from the rocket could strike a populated area had led people around the world to track its trajectory for days. The administrator of NASA, Bill Nelson, issued an unusual rebuke after China’s announcement, accusing the country of “failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris.”

The rocket, a Long March 5B, launched the main module of China’s next space station, Tiangong, on April 29. Usually, the large booster stages of rockets immediately drop back to Earth after they are jettisoned, but the 23-ton core stage of the Long March 5B accompanied the space station segment all the way to orbit.

tracks the comings and goings of objects in space, said on Twitter that an ocean splashdown had always been the most likely outcome, but that the episode raised questions about how China designs its space missions.

“It appears China won its gamble (unless we get news of debris in the Maldives),” he wrote. “But it was still reckless.”

Long March 5B is China’s largest rocket, and one of the largest currently in use by any nation. The country’s space program needed a large, powerful vehicle to carry Tianhe, the main module of Tiangong, the new space station, which is to be operational by 2022 after more pieces are launched and connected in orbit.

routinely fell on rural areas downrange, occasionally causing damage. China has since moved many of its launches, including the Long March 5B’s, to a new site in Wenchang, a city on Hainan, an island off the southeastern coast.

Last year, the first launch of a Long March 5B rocket lifted a prototype of China’s crewed space capsule. The booster from that rocket also made an uncontrolled re-entry, with some debris raining down on a village in Ivory Coast.

an international legal framework based on treaties from the 1960s and ’70s in which a country can demand payment for damage caused by another country’s falling rocket.

That has happened once, after Cosmos 954, a Soviet satellite that was powered by a nuclear reactor, crashed in Canada in 1978. Canada billed the Soviet Union for part of the cost of cleaning up the radioactive debris.

In recent years, China has completed a series of impressive achievements in spaceflight. Months ago, it put a spacecraft — Tianwen-1 — in orbit around Mars, and in December it also collected rocks from the surface of the moon and brought them back to Earth.

In May or June, it hopes to further advance its Mars mission by landing a robotic rover, Zhurong, on the red planet’s surface. So far only the United States has had lasting success during attempts to land on Mars.

As it works to make steady progress on space station construction, China could also launch a crew to orbit next month in a spacecraft called Shenzhou. Once in space, they are to dock with the Tianhe module.

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