KNOW THE RULES The ins and outs of WA’s strict regulation of cannabis edibles

regulation of cannabis ediblesSince the first cannabis storefront opened in 2013, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) has continued to revise its rules regarding what processor licensees can do with “marijuana-infused products” (MIPs), including edibles. Back in 2014, the WSLCB issued emergency rules for the first time really dealing specifically with MIP contents and ingredients. The rules were mainly a reaction to multiple stories of individuals who ingested too much cannabis from their edibles (like Maureen Dowd from The New York Times while she was in Colorado), and of children mistaking cannabis candy for the real thing.

The WSLCB eventually adopted these emergency rules as permanent rules which are still in play today.

Probably the most important provision of the WSLCB’s MIPs rules is the one requiring that all cannabis-infused products, packages, and labels be approved by the WSLCB before their sale:

“A marijuana processor licensee must obtain approval from the [WSLCB] for all marijuana-infused products, labeling, and packaging prior to offering these items for sale to a marijuana retailer. The marijuana processor licensee must submit a picture of the product, labeling, and packaging to the liquor control board for approval. If the [WSLCB] denies a marijuana-infused product for sale in marijuana retail outlets, the marijuana processor licensee may request an administrative hearing per chapter 34.05 RCW, Administrative Procedure Act.”

“While processors may have creative ideas for MIPs in the Evergreen State, if the products fail to comply with the foregoing MIPs rules, the WSLCB will ensure that those products never make it to market.”

These rules also prohibit any cannabis product from being “designed to be especially appealing to children” and require labeling on all MIPs to state that “this product contains marijuana.” The rules further mandate that edible cannabis products must have their serving size “prominently displayed on the packaging” and be “homogenized to ensure uniform disbursement of cannabinoids.”

Washington’s MIPs rules also ban retail shops from having any dairy products, canned foods, fruit or vegetable juices, butters, dried or cured meats, or pies that contain eggs in their stores. And the rules prohibit selling infused foods that “require time-temperature control to keep them safe for human consumption and prevent the growth of pathogenic microorganisms or the production of toxins” and any “food that requires refrigeration, freezing or a hot holding unit to keep it safe.”

Furthermore, there are restrictions on the kinds of food and drinks processors can make. MIPs that require cooking or baking by the consumer are prohibited. MIPs edible products such as, but not limited to, gummy candies, lollipops, cotton candy or brightly colored products, are prohibited. And other food items that may not be infused with cannabis to be sold in a retail store are:

  • Any food that has to be acidified to make it shelf stable;
  • Food items made shelf stable by canning or retorting;
  • Fruit or vegetable juices (this does not include shelf stable concentrates);
  • Fruit or vegetable butters;
  • Pumpkin pies, custard pies or any pies that contain egg;
  • Dairy products of any kind such as butter, cheese, ice cream or milk; and
  • Dried or cured meat.

Vinegars and oils derived from natural sources may be infused with dried

cannabis if all plant material is subsequently removed from the final product. Vinegars and oils may not be infused with any other substance, including herbs and garlic. And cannabis-infused jams and jellies made from scratch must utilize a standardized recipe in accordance with 21 C.F.R. Part 150, revised as of April 1, 2013.

Per WAC 314-55-104, dairy butter may still be used to prepare “allowable marijuana-infused” products, “but the dairy butter or fats derived from natural sources may not be sold as stand-alone products.”

In the end, Washington’s cannabis-infused rules are certainly restrictive. While processors may have creative ideas for MIPs in the Evergreen State, if the products fail to comply with the foregoing MIPs rules, the WSLCB will ensure that those products never make it to market. Ultimately, if you are making MIPs for sale in Washington State, you need to know with these regulations in and out and act accordingly.

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