Attorney General Tong Warns Against Unregulated and Illegal Cannabis Products Sold in Look-Alike Packaging
(Hartford, CT) — Attorney General William Tong is warning the public about the dangers of cannabis edibles and hemp derivatives in packaging designed to look like well-known snack foods and candy. These products are unregulated, illegal, and may be extremely dangerous. Examples of some of these products, which were confiscated by law enforcement, are pictured below:
These products may contain high concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound found in cannabis, and if eaten by children, can lead to an accidental overdose. According to the Department of Homeland Security, the most common overdose incidents among children involve ingestion of edible cannabis foods, and such overdoses are on the rise. In the first nine months of 2020, 80 percent of calls related to marijuana edibles to the Poison Control Center were for pediatric exposure. In the first half of 2021 alone, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reports poison control hotline calls have received an estimated 2,622 calls for services related to young children ingesting cannabis products. The Connecticut Poison Control Center received 88 calls in 2020 regarding child exposure to edible marijuana, and 58 calls in the first seven months of 2021.
“These look-alike cannabis products are unregulated, unsafe, and illegal. Accidental cannabis overdoses by children are increasing nationwide, and these products will only make this worse. While Connecticut recently legalized adult-use cannabis, many of these products fall far outside the range of what will ever be safe or authorized for sale. If you see these look-alike products for sale, please report them to my office and take every measure to keep these away from kids,” said Attorney General Tong.
“This is an important consumer safety issue as we prepare for the launch of the adult-use cannabis industry in Connecticut,” said DCP Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull. “Not only are these products being sold illegally, but the deceptive packaging that does not clearly indicate to the consumer what they are ingesting is extremely dangerous, especially when there may be children in the home. That’s why we’ve mandated in our policies and procedures for regulating the adult-use market that all packaging must be black and white, plain, and child-proof, so there will be no mistaking it for a non-cannabis product. Once the market launches and legal sales begin, this distinct packaging will help consumers recognize these regulated products.”
Although Connecticut recently legalized adult-use cannabis, cannabis products are not yet being sold legally in the state. Under Connecticut law, cannabis products may not be sold under a brand name that is identical or similar to the name of an existing non-cannabis product. Moreover, when retail establishments are licensed to sell cannabis, edible products will be subject to strict safety controls. For example, a single adult serving size of an edible cannabis product under our statute contains five milligrams of THC, and a multiple-serving package of an edible cannabis product shall contain not more than one hundred milligrams of total THC. The bag of lookalike Cheetos pictured below contains 600 milligrams of THC.
If a child were to eat the entire bag, he or she would be consuming 120 times the maximum legal adult serving. Individuals and companies responsible for putting these edibles within the reach of children should carefully reconsider whether they choose to continue to profit from illegal look-alike cannabis edibles sales. Sellers may be subject to legal action and substantial civil penalties under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act.
Like any other drug, adults should take strong precautions to ensure that children do not have access to any products containing cannabis. Cannabis products should only be purchased from state licensed businesses, where the consumer can verify the source and origin of the active ingredient and confirm that the product has passed state required testing protocols. Products advertising cannabis should not be purchased online through direct shipment platforms. Subject to limited exceptions, only adults 21 and older are permitted to buy and consume cannabis products containing THC. Parents are encouraged to speak with their children, including young adults, and provide age-appropriate guidance about the dangers look-alike products pose.
Symptoms of THC overdose include respiratory distress, loss of coordination, lethargy, and loss of consciousness. If you suspect your child has eaten a food containing high amounts of THC and become sick, call the Connecticut Poison Control Hotline at 1-800-222-1222. Consumers who encounter look-alike cannabis edible products are encouraged to file a consumer complaint with the Connecticut Office of the Attorney General here: https://www.dir.ct.gov/ag/complaint/