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Copycat Cannabis Edibles: A Danger for Youth

At first glance, do you notice any glaring differences between these two bags of gummy bears?


Both have the traditional vibrant red and yellow Haribo branding with the cheerful tag line of “Kids and grown-ups love it so!” but take a closer look at the bottom text of the left bag and the unsettling difference will become clear. In small black text, the warning reads “Gummi Edibles 600MG” accompanied by a tiny marijuana warning label.

In September of 2020, a young boy from Massachusetts ate so many THC-laced candies that doctors found about three grams of THC in his body, a large amount even for adult consumption. The American Association of Poison Control released a publication in 2020 that outlines the growing number of children accidently ingesting marijuana or marijuana products. In 2019, the AAPC received approximately 2,800 calls about children being exposed to marijuana, and in 2020 that number climbed to over 5,000.  This trend has been echoed by poison control centers throughout the country who have also noticed the troubling spike.

Edible Marijuana Packaging next to Popular Snack Brands

The lack of federal regulation for medical marijuana has created a vacuum within the industry which has allowed individuals to take advantage of the unclear guidelines and create misleading products and unsafe packaging. This leaves the burden on individual states to enact guidelines for marijuana packaging.

In Rhode Island, medical marijuana products have strict compliance regulations for packaging such as:

  • Neutral colored packages
  • Child-resistant sealing for packages or containers
  • Size requirements for warning labels
  • Packaging cannot imitate or have a resemblance to any existing branded consumer products.

However, empty marijuana edible packaging like the examples shown above are easily accessible online for bulk purchase with the intention of being resold through illegal marijuana markets. In most cases, individuals can purchase empty packaging to create the illusion of standardization and create knock-off THC versions of popular snacks and candies. How much THC is in a product, or what other possible chemicals/pesticides could possibly be included, are completely unknown.

To give you an idea of how much larger illegal marijuana markets are compared to legal dispensaries, California recently conducted an audit to determine how large the black market was in their state. The audit, conducted by the United Cannabis Business Association, found approximately 2,835 unlicensed dispensaries and delivery services operating in California. By comparison, only 873 cannabis sellers in the state are licensed, according to the Bureau of Cannabis Control.

Safe storage of marijuana products is vital, regardless of whether you have children living in your home or not.


Keeping THC products out of sight and reach for children is the number one priority for reducing the harm. Lockable cabinets, locked medical bags, and designating an area in your home that children would not find to keep your products are highly encouraged. Be informed of the health risks associated with kids ingesting THC and keep your home safe for all youth!

For more information, reach out to your local Municipal Prevention Coalition, or email us at [email protected] or visit riprevention.org for more resources.