Raise your hand if you remember all of those lawsuits involving strain names and cannabis packaging.
Strains like “Girls’ Scout Cookies” and “Gorilla Glue” reigned supreme among cannabis culture for decades. These days, however, you will see them abbreviated to “GSC” or “GG”, respectively. This is in response to being sued for the use of popular brand names. Lamborghini Leglock -or any other pun built off lukewarm-cannabis opponents- won’t be found among them either. Ironically enough, all these brands profited substantially from their association with cannabis, even spawning an unspoken culture around the two worlds that further them both financially. Alas, the stigma wins and companies barred cannabis brands from naming their ‘illicit products’ after well-known entities. Most would assume the problem would end there but it’s returned with a new target.
A Bud By Any Other Name
Kellogg, Pepsi, General Mills, American Bakers Association, Digital Citizens Alliance, Mondelez International, American herbal Products Association, Association for Dressings & Sauces among many others penned a letter to Congress urging them to address cannabis companies that liken products to theirs. Not only in name, but in look as well. Going a step further than the previous suit, these companies want to deter cannabis companies from using their likeness to sell their products. Consumer Brands Associate claims that restyling popular packaging for cannabis products can pose a public safety risk.
“Children are increasingly threatened by the unscrupulous use of famous brand logos, characters, trademarks, and trade dress on THC-laced edible products. While cannabis (and incidental amounts of THC) may be legal in some states, the use of these famous marks, clearly without the approval of the brand’s owners, on food products has created serious health and safety risks for consumers, particularly children, who cannot tell difference between these brands’ true products and copycat THC products that leverage the brand’s fame for profit.”–Letter from Consumer Brands Association
The wrench in their claim, however, is that children can’t purchase these products. Therefore, they wouldn’t be able to mistake them during purchase for the real thing. With the name changes, the decision fell to copyright at the end of the day. Ultimately, they had no permission to use the names. The brands obviously took their time addressing it as I’m sure it had its benefits. In this case, however, companies aren’t breaking any laws creating products in likeness as they didn’t use the brand’s name, and it’s blatantly NOT the original to an adult purchaser. If the products are already in the home, it’s the parents’ responsibility to keep the product away from children. While some of their concern is valid, the pursuit of capitalism prevents the argument from having much grip.
Regardless, the writers of the letter are pressing for a fine to be enforced. Companies that use the marks of “famous” brands -those who are widely recognized by the general public- but skirt the definition of counterfeit could be penalized as a result. For cannabis, this isn’t the end of the world. Brands will get more creative and adapt as most have taken the route of hiring local artists for more unique packaging. The bigger question here is if Congress will rule in their favor.
For years now, members of Congress have called out the country’s use of federal power to pursue cannabis. This is simply one more instance of focusing on the minuscule parts of a massive problem. Cannabis is used as medicine and gatekept from those who need it. Yet, here we are having companies who make millions off the prohibition of cannabis coming after packaging standards. Maybe a joint will help them see the bigger picture here.