The Johnstown Police Department, a town of 21,000 in southwestern Pennsylvania, US, discovered a stash of illegally produced candy in mid-October. The products appeared to resemble Ferrara’s NERDS Ropes, but these faux versions contained 400mg of THC per serving according to the label.
Then, last weekend, police in Peabody, Massachusetts – where recreational cannabis has been legal since 2016 – seized an estimated $1.2m of illegally produced marijuana candy, including knock-off NERDS Ropes and Willy Wonka candy bars. The Peabody Police Department lamented on Facebook that the black market was 'still viable.' (Massachusetts was one of the first US states to decriminalize marijuana possession, approved by voters in 2008.)
Ferrara Candy Company, owner of both brands, told ConfectioneryNews in a statement: "This product is counterfeit and in no way associated with Ferrara Candy Company. We want to reassure consumers that the NERDS products they find at major retailers across the country and at nerdscandy.com are safe to consume.”
On Facebook, local police posted photos of the loot and urged residents to be extra cautious this Halloween – the biggest candy holiday of the year.
“We urge parents to be ever vigilant in checking their children’s candy before allowing them to consume those treats,” the Johnstown police said on social media. “Drug laced edibles are packaged like regular candy and may be hard to distinguish from the real candy.”
Counterfeit candy making rounds
Ferrara is not the only confectioner to be dogged by such counterfeit product. This summer, Mondelēz Canada went so far as to sue a manufacturer pushing marijuana products that mirrored Sour Patch Kids. Called Stoney Patch, the candies looked just like Mondelēz’s iconic sour gummy candy, down to the bright yellow bag and logo.
In the complaint filed in California courts, Mondelēz argued not only trademark infringement but also the harm such lookalikes could cause to children, who might mistake them for the real candy.
“There has been a growing trend among makers of cannabis products, including edible products infused with THC, to market their products by copying and misappropriating the colors, flavors, names and packaging of popular snacks and candies,” the court filing said.
A safe Halloween
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that parents remind their kids not to accept or consume “anything that is not commercially wrapped.” Once home from trick-or-treating, parents should inspect treats for signs of tampering: unusual appearance, discoloration, pinholes, or tears.
Unfortunately, with commercially packaged cannabis edibles now available in many US states, that double-check might prove to be more difficult. Nonetheless, due to the market rate of these products, they would likely not merely be given away for free, as some Johnstown residents pointed out on Facebook.
The NERDS Ropes found in Johnstown, PA, however, did indicate the 400mg of THC on the label.
Québec wants to ban the sale of cannabis edibles deemed attractive to children for this very reason, as we reported in August.