Washington’s Evolution of Edibles

When the first Washington recreational marijuana stores opened in July 2014, a selection of highly anticipated products were noticeably absent. Edibles were not able to hit the shelves for another month, and Bellingham’s Top Shelf Cannabis became the first Washington marijuana retailer to offer the items.

Top Shelf, who also had the first legal recreational marijuana sale in Washington state, quickly sold out of edible products. According to Top Shelf’s Ariane Brust, who made that first sale, edibles account for around 30 to 40% of Top Shelf’s business. “Edible” is broadly used to apply to the use of THC-infused products, be it cookies, chocolates, chips or THC oils.

Brust said that while edibles are popular in general, they seem to be favored by an older demographic. The most common customer set is the elderly, who are more likely to buy them and use them as a way to self-medicate joint pain and other minor ailments. Top Shelf’s most popular products tend to be THC-infused oils.

The delay of edibles hitting recreational store shelves was due to a few factors, the driving factor being that the Washington State Liquor Control Board was stringent when reviewing the terms of edibles and slow to give kitchens approval to prepare products that were infused with THC. After the terms and approvals were complete, edibles were hard to keep on the shelves because the priority was on making dry marijuana available. Because Washington had such a hard time keeping up with demand for the first few months of legalization, most effort was put into selling what they had grown and not processing it into what some see as a novelty product.

The guidelines for edibles were issued late July 2014, covering everything from the packaging to the actual preparation of the edibles. Not only is the packaging scrutinized so as to not attract children, but products that have temperature and storage requirements cannot be manufactured. The aim here is keep the products safe to consume, as dairy-, fruit- or egg-based items could go bad and lead to illness.

Since August, the edibles market has taken off and it is now a strong part of the retail marijuana industry, to the point that product offerings go far beyond simple brownies, cookies and oils. Bellingham itself actually has two chocolatiers, Crescendo Chocolates and Verdelux Chocolates, who specialize in THC-infused items such as truffles.

The edibles market has gone so far as to help inspire an innovation in marijuana vending machines. The use of these machines has been implemented in Colorado and Washington medical dispensaries, though they might not be used in a recreational capacity any time soon. In early March, recreational vending machines in Washington were banned (along with drive-through windows) with a state senate vote of 47-0.

While the evolution of edibles has been positive, it has not been without its setbacks. One of the most popular topics of debate has to do with children and their accidental exposure to marijuana edibles, because to a child a cookie is a cookie. In Washington, the liquor board has to first approve any marijuana-infused product before it goes to sale. Childproof packaging has been introduced as a deterrent to mishaps and recreational shops cannot sell items that are appealing to children, such as suckers.

As the edibles industry keeps growing, there will undoubtably be a continual evolution of packaging security. While more advancements may be made, the responsibility still needs to fall into the hands of parents.

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