Edibles hit Washington’s adult-use cannabis market one month after recreational stores opened in July 2014 and keeping them out of the reach of children continues to be a primary concern for many in the industry.
According to “Concerning Cannabis-Infused Edibles: Factors That Attract Children to Foods,” a new report from the University of Washington School of Law’s Cannabis Law and Policy Project, certain physical elements make foods attractive to children and specific types of marketing influence children’s food selections, informing potential cannabis regulations so as to prevent accidental-ingestion by minors.
CLPP’s report, commissioned by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, presented the following findings on factors that affect children’s propensity to ingest foods:
- Children’s decisions to ingest or avoid foods are affected by particular colors, preferring foods that are red, orange, yellow or green; shapes that are more novel than conventional and odors that are sweet, fruity or candy-like.
- Unpleasant tastes rather than unpleasant odors are more likely to deter children, with children often disliking the odor of fish, clove, coffee and garlic.
- Specific types of marketing and branding significantly influence children’s food selections, with promotional and cartoon characters impacting children’s taste and food preferences and television ads affecting food and beverage decisions for children ages 2-11.
Although the report uses research on children’s general food preferences, the findings apply to how children could approach edibles, considering some edibles come in forms familiar to children—chocolate bars, cookies, brownies or candies, among others.
“There is scant research of testing children with cannabis-infused edibles, and for good ethical reasons,” said Sam Méndez, executive director of the Cannabis Law and Policy Project, to UW Today. “So we looked at research on regular food products, but the same factors that make particular foods appealing to children, such as taste, color and packaging, would likely also apply to edibles.”
“We review all edible products and packaging to ensure they are not especially appealing to children,” said Rick Garza, director of the WSLCB. “This new study will help further that important responsibility.”
According to CLPP’s report, edibles in Washington have an estimated 10-20 percent market share, which is a minority of total recreational sales, but a potentially significant one when trying to prevent minors from accessing edibles.
With the Washington Poison Center having received more than 150 calls for cannabis exposures this year, the WAPC’s recently announced “Not for Kids” warning symbol is one more way the state is attempting to keep edibles out of the hands of children.