NEW YORK — As New York’s first licensed recreational marijuana store opened last month, Chris Alexander, head of the state’s Office of Cannabis Management, raised a can of watermelon-flavored gummies over its crowd.
Outside the Manhattan store, he showed off another purchase: a jar containing the dried flowers of a cannabis strain called Banana Runtz, which some aficionados say has “fresh, fruity banana and sour caramel.”
Inside the store, run by the non-profit Housing Works, the shelves were written in rainbow bubble letters suggesting flavors of pineapple, grape and cereal milk.
For decades, health advocates have rebuked the tobacco industry for marketing harmful nicotine products to children, resulting in more cities and states, such as New York, banning flavored tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes.
As cannabis stores proliferate across the country, concerns are growing about the packaging and marketing of flavored cannabis, which critics say are labeled “crazy mango,” “lemon noise” and “peach dream.” Can entice children to be a part of the products.
“We should learn from the field of nicotine, and I would certainly argue that we should have similar concerns for cannabis products in terms of their appeal to young people,” said Catherine Keyes, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University. who has written extensively on the rise in marijuana use among youth.
“If you walk by a cannabis dispensary right now,” he said, “it’s almost absurd how much youth-oriented packaging and products there are.”
Keyes said public health policy makers and researchers like him are trying to catch up to a rapidly growing and evolving industry and market.
marketing and children
New York, which legalized recreational marijuana in March 2021, prohibits marketing and advertising that is “designed in any way to attract children or other minors.”
But the New York State Office of Cannabis Management has yet to officially adopt rules on labeling, packaging and advertising that could ban cartoon and neon colors, as well as labels on packages containing food, candy, soft drinks, beverages, cookies or Can ban the depiction of grains. , the agency suggests that all of these may appeal to people under the age of 21.
“Consumers need to be aware, parents need to be aware, if you see a product that looks like other products that are commonly marketed to children, it is an illegal market product ,” said Lyla Hunt, OCM’s deputy director of public health and campaigns.
Hunt recently looked into a cannabis product calling itself “Stony Patch Kids,” which he said is similar to the popular “Sour Patch Kids” candy.
Dozens of illegal outdoor marijuana dispensaries sell similar products, and officials fear they may be selling unsafe products. Experts say that once packaging and marketing standards are established, the possibility of an illegal market will follow.
Between 2017 and 2021, more than 7,000 cases involving children under the age of 6 were reported. To watch more from Telemundo, visit https://www.nbc.com/networks/telemundo.
State officials hope that products purchased from licensed dispensaries will help.
“We can regulate until we are blue in the face. But the truth is that it is a partnership between an industry that is creating compliant, strong regulations that protect their lives for young people and parents. I’m strong,” Hunt said.
New York Governor Cathy Hochul announced Thursday the opening of the state’s second legal dispensary, which will be located in Manhattan’s West Village. The new company, called “Smacked,” will open as a pop-up next week before opening a permanent location.
Under state law, a minor in possession of marijuana will face a civil penalty of no more than $50. Licensed cannabis retailers who sell to minors face fines and loss of their licenses, but not jail time.
Science has long established the addictive nature of nicotine and the health problems associated with tobacco smoking, including cancer and emphysema.
The health effects of vaping are less settled, especially in children whose bodies and internal organs are not yet fully developed.
While tobacco cigarette smoking has decreased among teens and young adults, use of e-cigarettes and vaping has increased.
A handful of states—California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island—ban most flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and vapes. Several cities, including New York City, have similar restrictions.
But those rules need to be expanded to include marijuana, said Linda Richter of the Partnership to End Addiction, who says the issue has yet to be comprehensively addressed.
Officers are looking for six thieves who took bags of marijuana from a dispensary in Silver Lake.
“There is more scrutiny in the tobacco industry and very, very little in the cannabis industry in terms of rules, regulations, scrutiny, limits,” he said.
He said that due to the relative infancy of the legalization industry, states have not yet merged the regulations into a single national standard. States often turn to the federal government to set those standards, but marijuana is still illegal at the federal level.
“It’s a real problem where you don’t have the federal government weighing in on packaging and marketing standards” to set parameters to avoid youth-appealing marketing, Richter said.
Anti-smoking groups, including the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, have long criticized the tobacco industry for its marketing practices, such as the use of cartoon characters to help market its products. In recent years, he has campaigned against flavored nicotine products, including those used for vaping.
But so far, these groups have not targeted the marijuana industry.
A study published earlier this month documented a sharp increase in poisonings among young children, especially young children, who accidentally ate marijuana-laced candy.
The rise in cases has coincided with an increase in the number of states allowing the use of marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes. Currently, 37 US states allow medical use of cannabis, while 21 states allow recreational use.