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States struggle to develop guidelines to prevent marketing cannabis to children

Flavored Marijuana
Posted at 1:44 PM, Jan 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-24 13:44:13-05

For decades, health advocates have been fighting how tobacco companies market products that could appeal to kids.

As 21 states have legalized sales of recreational cannabis, a similar situation is unfolding for marijuana.

Health leaders across the country say packaging for things like cannabis candies may appeal to those under 21.

Typically, local lawmakers look to the federal government for guidance on things like this. But that doesn’t exist because marijuana is still illegal at the federal level.

Research on how kids react to marijuana marketing can also be tricky.

"I think one thing that's a challenge with the emerging cannabis industry is that it's rapidly evolving. So we're reacting to the products that are in the market and trying to do research on what types of products are most popular among both youth and adults,” said Katherine Keyes, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University.

Rules that many states have in place for tobacco also don’t really translate.

"A flavor ban that you would see in tobacco isn't really something that is a policy option for us since the cannabis plant itself has flavor,” Keyes said.

That leaves states to come up with new laws, which can take time.

New York, for example, has a ban on cannabis marketing and advertising designed to appeal to kids. But there are no specifics to it yet.

For now, health experts say parents should pay attention to the cannabis products they buy and where they’re storing them.