Examples of products with trademark violations sold by registered caregivers in Maine, seized by the state’s Office of Cannabis Policy. Credit: Maine Office of Cannabis Policy

Maine’s Office of Cannabis Policy pledged to crack down on improper cannabis package labeling, particularly those that indicate out-of-state sources, in an open memo released Wednesday, June 1.

“The focus of this guidance are those edible cannabis products that are packaged and/or labeled in a manner that causes confusion regarding whether a product contains a trademarked product, including trademarked products that are marketed and sold to individuals under the age of 21,” said the letter.

The state of Maine currently has eight medical cannabis dispensaries, but that figure does not account for the over 3,000 licensed cannabis caregivers in the state, each of which are allowed to open medical cannabis store fronts.

The state also does not currently require medical cannabis providers to track sales, making it difficult for the state to track illicit sales that may or may not be taking place in caregiver store fronts. Despite this limitation, the state has reported an increase in complaints for improper sales. 

“As a result of routine compliance activities, OCP has identified an increasing number of violations of the prohibitions of 22 MRS § 2429-A(2), as well as strong evidence that program registrants are purchasing cannabis products from the illicit cannabis markets,” said the memo. 

The state provided photos of seized edibles whose packaging mimicked Wonka Bars, Nerds Ropes, Swedish Fish, and Sour Patch Kids, redubbed as “Stoney Patch.” 

“The sale of illicit cannabis products imported from out of state jeopardizes the livelihoods of Maine cultivators and manufacturers. Furthermore, it puts patients at risk of ingesting products with no clear origin. OCP has serious concerns that edible cannabis products that are packaged and labeled in a manner to mimic trademarked products can lead to confusion by children who are unable to distinguish these cannabis products from the non-cannabis products they are designed to imitate.”

Aside from copyright or intellectual property concerns, some of those photos included packages with symbols indicating that they were produced in California. 

“Furthermore, some of the edible cannabis products that are packaged, labeled, and manufactured in violation of [state cannabis packaging laws] also include universal symbols from other regulated jurisdictions, which suggests that these products are being transferred across state lines in violation of state and federal law,” said the memo.

The ongoing concern over the sale of illicit products comes amid ongoing discussion about regulating Maine’s medical cannabis market. 

Last year, the OCP, which was then known as the Office of Marijuana Policy, attempted to craft new regulations for the medical market that would have mandated product testing and sale tracking. That effort failed amid pushback from the medical cannabis community, culminating in a new state law limiting the OCP’s ability to craft new rules without legislative oversight. 

“OCP strongly supports the many small businesses that comprise the regulated medical cannabis industry, and we are deeply concerned about the health and safety impacts of illicit cannabis products being sold to patients in the market,” said OCP’s memo.

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Zack cut his journalistic teeth covering high school sports in the south before spending a decade covering local government, politics and the courts in the Boston, Massachusetts area. He's previously written...