The eye is tricked easily. Just ask a magician. One can make a quick comparison between magicians and advertisers in that they both “trick” the consumer into seeing something or purchasing something. However, a major difference is, after a magician’s show has ended, there’s no harm in selling show merchandise to the consumer. On the other hand, advertisers can be the root of tremendous harm by pushing dangerously misleading packaged “merch” to the masses.
The two also differ in transparency. Advertisers are far less likely than a magician to share their tricks to selling a client’s product or service. Adults buy edible products knowing they are cannabis-based while children mistake the product for everyday candy. It’s the company’s advertising responsibility to ensure children are not misled.
Advertising is as cut throat as can be, causing some advertisers to be less transparent, even irresponsible, in their advertising campaigns.
Marijuana marketing has elicited some of the most creative minds, no doubt. Packaging has taken on the tried and true of yesteryear, borrowing from childhood favorite goodies and blending these into travel “pods,” for example, a Doritos® bag, Nerds® or any gummies snack bag that looks and feels the part. In addition to accidental use by a child, in the wrong hands of elderly adults and those with lower cognitive skills, great harm might be caused if they consume edibles due to misleading labeling of the product as a familiar snack.
“Marketing edible THC products that can be easily mistaken by children and those with lower cognitive ability for regular foods is reckless and illegal,” said Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Companies must ensure that their products are marketed safely and responsibly, especially when it comes to protecting the well-being of children.” (FTC Sends Cease and Desist Letters with FDA to Companies Selling Edible Products Containing Delta-8 THC in Packaging Nearly Identical to Food Children Eat, July 5, 2023, internet).
So, is dispensing your child MMJ inadvertently an act of abuse or negligence? If a parent has been advised by their pediatrician, the answer is no. And yet, many parents are hesitant to bring up this conversation. There is plenty of literature touting MMJ benefits for children who have epilepsy and autism. In fact, a popular TV infomercial touts MontKush®, a CBDA tincture. It depicts the story of a popular TV personality-turned-farmer, who grows his own illustrious marijuana farm, his muse being his young daughter with special needs.
Advertisers shouldn’t sugar coat the damage that could be caused to children, the elderly and those with cognitive differences who accidently ingest cannabis edibles due to misleading packaging. Advertising is about responsibility, transparency, and accountability. After all, the consumer is most interested in what resides inside the packaging and its safety rather than how attractive or nostalgic the packaging is. The “Safety First,” motto must be employed by advertisers when crafting marketing campaigns for cannabis products. If not, these advertisers could not only be acting irresponsibly but also illegally.
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