Study Shows Why Children Like Marijuana Edibles


SEATTLE, Washington – Researchers at the University of Washington are examining the factors that attract children to certain edible products in an effort to combat the potential for accidental ingestion of adult marijuana products in states where they are legal.

The University of Washington School of Law’s Cannabis Law and Policy Project looked at how shape, color, and taste affect children’s interest. Marketing and branding of products were also considered. Generally, kids were more attracted to foods that exhibit the following properties:

  • Colors of red, orange, yellow, and green;
  • Shapes like stars or animals, as opposed to slices or sticks; and
  • Sweet or fruity smells.

“Of these factors we looked at, no one factor was clearly indicative of a danger to children,” said Sam Méndez, executive director of the Cannabis Law and Policy Project. “So if you have a food that’s shaped as a bear, that doesn’t automatically make it attractive to kids, especially if it smells or tastes bad.” A bad taste is more likely to deter children than the smell alone, according to the report.

Researchers and policy makers will be looking to this study as they seek to regulate the fast-growing marijuana industry. The popularity of edible marijuana products took both proponents and opponents by surprise, with the latter seizing on increases in reports of accidental marijuana ingestion by children.

Washington State has strict regulations concerning the marketing, packaging, and forms of edible marijuana products. Products like gummy bears, lollipops, cotton candy, and anything cooked or baked cannot be sold as a marijuana-infused product. All packaging must be opaque and childproof.

Colorado has also recently created new restrictions on marijuana-infused edibles, such as banning gummy candies in animal, fruit, or human shapes and requiring that “THC!” be stamped on all edible marijuana products containing it.

Children Like Marijuana Edibles
No, you can’t make them spell animals, either. (Copyright: jgaunion / 123RF Stock Photo)

In addition to trying to limit the appeal of adult marijuana products to children, lawmakers are limiting the potential damage if a child should eat these products. Both Colorado and Washington have defined a single serving size of marijuana edibles to contain just 10 milligrams of THC, with a package limit of ten servings (100 milligrams).

Oregon currently mandates a 15 milligram serving size limit. However, Oregon’s regulators are moving ahead with a recreational dose limit of a mere 5 milligrams of THC with a package limit of 50 milligrams to begin in October. (Oregon is looking to set a 100 milligram limit for medical consumer edibles, which is likely to incentivize diversion to high-tolerance recreational users who’ll be unsatisfied with a 50 milligram edible.)

The report also concludes that advertising and branding influenced the interest of children aged 2 to 11, but once into teenage years, kids are less swayed by ads. Marketing rules in the three legal states with currently operating retail (Alaska is still setting rules) forbid any type of advertising and marketing designed to appeal to minors.

Today’s industry of marijuana edibles is a far cry from the early days of the medical marijuana, when unscrupulous edibles manufacturers would rip off the branding of popular food items like “Pop Tarts” and “Butterfinger” for their marijuana-infused versions called “Pot Tarts” and “Buddahfinger”. No responsible manufacturer these days would be allowed to produce this kind of marketing and branding.

Russ Belville
About Russ Belville 199 Articles
Russ Belville - or "Radical" Russ, as he is known on-air - hosts The Marijuana Agenda, a live news and talk radio program for the cannabis community, weekdays at 3pm Pacific on  The show is based in Portland, Oregon, but "Radical" Russ has traveled over 300,000 air miles in the past five years, bringing his show to report live from hundreds of cannabis conferences, marijuana expos, hemp festivals, and legalization events in over 70 North American cities.