Prior to the Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act, the unregulated dispensaries in Michigan had certain freedoms that they no longer have.
One of the biggest shifts has been in the marketing of edibles.
In terms of how products are marketed, what was once kosher is now taboo. And dispensaries are routinely pulling products from their shelves in order to pass licensing.
As you can imagine, scaling a cannabis business takes a lot of work. And pulling products isn’t exactly good for that business.
What Are the Rules for Marketing of Edibles?
The Michigan Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation (BMMR) is working together with The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) to essentially double up on the bureaucracy.
This is evidenced by a nearly constant and, by some accounts, rather entertaining litany of advisory bulletins.
But the guiding principle behind all of this regulating starts with this:
Edibles Cannot Be Marketed to Minors
And this is where it gets tricky. Because nobody, at this point, has been able to close in a definition of what is considered acceptable in terms of marketing to minors.
It’s safe to assume that the folks behind setting these regulations aren’t highly trained designers who know what good marketing to minors looks like.
Still, you don’t need a four-year degree to decipher what are some very obvious design and marketing elements geared toward minors.
So here are some very basic restrictions set out by LARA every dispensary should be aware of before stocking their shelves:
- If it looks like something a child would want to eat, it’s not acceptable. This includes things like Rice Krispy treats, cotton candy, cake pops and pixie sticks – regardless of that fact that plenty of adults like taking these down too. Chocolate is okay though. And so are gummies – as long as they’re some boring shape that no one would confuse for a bear.
- If it’s a drink that looks like Kool-Aid, it’s out. In fact, any beverage with a color is out. Unless that bright green cannabis infused happy drink is in an opaque container. Then it seems to be okay. However, no Michigan producers have been able to get their process for creating such beverages approved yet.
- If it requires heating or cooling, it will not pass licensing. That means no ice cream or hummus. And forget all about cannabis Hot Pockets. They’re just a pipe dream.
- It it looks like an already well-known candy brand or other snack food, kiss it goodbye.
- If there’s a child’s cartoon on the packaging, it’s a no-go. This includes any product that resembles a copyrighted character like a gummy bear or a unicorn. Animations and graphics of a more adult nature get a pass though. So Disney is out while maybe R. Crumb is in.
So you can see why it’s all so confusing.
Things Will Get Easier
It’s tough for the rule enforcers at both BMMR and LARA too. But they’re slowly piecing together the ins and outs of the marketing of edibles. And it seems that they’re getting more relaxed as they’re settling into this new pre-licensing process.
So there’s that. And who knows? There might even be candy corn at the dispensaries again by next Halloween.
If you have a cannabis business and are having trouble keeping up with all of the regulations AND trying to market your business, reach out to the experts in cannabis marketing. We’re passionate about the industry and helping those in it.