Breaking News
More () »

Virginia attorney general will soon target stores selling copycat cannabis edibles

Jason Miyares says his office will send legal letters to retailers starting July 1 if they are selling THC edible products resembling snack brands.

ARLINGTON, Va. — Some products resembling popular candy and snack brands are laced with cannabis THC and sold in Virginia stores. Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares says he wants to put a stop to that starting this Friday.

A letter written by Miyares calls for Congress to immediately enact legislation authorizing trademark holders of well-known and trusted products to hold accountable malicious actors who are marketing the illicit copycats to kids. 

"If you’re selling this garbage in stores, it’s not worth it," Miyares wrote. "After July 1, my office is coming after you."

In his letter, he references items that contain THC but that are designed to look like other drug-free products, like Oreo cookies, Cheetos, Doritos and more. Those in support of urging Congress say the edibles that look like other common snacks have increased kids' accidental THC consumption. 

"To be clear, under no circumstances are trusted food companies making products infused with THC or licensing their intellectual property," said Consumer Brands Association General Counsel Stacy Papadopoulos.

Credit: Becca Knier
A copycat THC edible of Gushers candy on the left, the real product is on the right.

Virginia law makes selling any of these products illegal over the counter. Only behind-the-counter sales in one of a handful of state-licensed businesses are allowed.

One challenge of policing these products is finding out who manufactures them. Skittles is made by the Mars candy company. But a THC-laced copycat spotted by WUSA9 has no manufacturer listed. Gushers candy is made by the Betty Crocker company. But another THC-laced copycat also has no manufacturer listed.

"On June 16, the FDA issued a warning that between January 1, 2021 – May 31, 2022, National Poison Control Centers received 10,448 single substance exposure cases involving edible products containing THC. Of these cases 77% involved patients 19 years of age or younger," the letter specified.

RELATED: Virginia attorney general urges Congress to crackdown on copycat weed edibles

In WUSA9's previous reporting in 2021, a doctor at Children's National Hospital  - Dr. Brian Schultz - agreed that edibles can be a cause for concern.

Schultz has treated young patients after they ingested edibles and believed part of the big increase in children's THC consumption - noted since 2016 - was due to the candy-like packaging for the products.

Credit: Becca Knier
A copycat THC edible of Skittles on the left with the real product on right.

"It’s happening more and more frequently. We’re seeing it a lot," he said. "A lot of the packages, tins and bags that they come in look almost identical to candy you would get at a candy store. Parents have to be aware of that and make sure they’re locked up and safely stored away.” 

RELATED: 'Glassy, bloodshot eyes' | Stafford daycare owner arrested after toddlers eat THC-laced goldfish

The effort to encourage Congress to take on the issue was co-led by Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford and joined by 21 other attorneys general who expressed support for the letter.

“As states across the country, including my own, take steps to legalize and regulate cannabis, rules have been put in place to protect children from unwitting consumption,” said Attorney General Ford.

The attorneys general state that while they do not all agree on the best regulatory scheme for cannabis and THC, they all agree that copycat THC edibles pose a grave risk to the health, safety and welfare of children.

“As THC-infused edibles become commonplace, some distributors have started advertising their products to look like popular candy and snack items," Miyares said via press release. "Their deceiving appearance and packaging can confuse young children who come across them."

Attorneys General from Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina Oregon, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, and Washington joined Attorney General Miyares’ letter.

The action comes after a Stafford daycare owner was arrested when toddlers under their care ate THC-laced goldfish in early March.

Police said that the parents noticed their toddlers had uncoordinated and lethargic behavior, along with bloodshot, glassy eyes. Hospital staff quickly recognized the symptoms: each child had been exposed to THC, resulting in a high. Testing confirmed their suspicions, according to police.  

Officials went on to detail that, when one detective searched the facility, he found goldfish crackers scattered on the floor of the daycare, beneath a group of high chairs. After collecting them and sending them out for testing, the children's snack came back positive for THC.

RELATED: Multiple elementary school students in Charles County ate marijuana-laced gummy bears; police investigating

WUSA9 is now on Roku and Amazon Fire TVs. Download the apps today for live newscasts and video on demand.

Download the WUSA9 app to get breaking news, weather and important stories at your fingertips.

Sign up for the Get Up DC newsletter: Your forecast. Your commute. Your news.
Sign up for the Capitol Breach email newsletter, delivering the latest breaking news and a roundup of the investigation into the Capitol Riots on January 6, 2021.

Before You Leave, Check This Out