1661879786567 Budway

Cannabis Copycats

June 17, 2021

To stop THC-infused knockoff products, legitimize the industry.

Pornographic films used to have a tradition of using the names of contemporary mainstream movies with a salacious twist. This isn’t an appropriate forum for me to give examples, but readers of a certain age will know what I mean.

That came to mind when I read about a cannabis shop in Vancouver, B.C., that got hit with a fine of CA$40,000 ($32,385) for calling itself Budway
and using a logo that’s a direct knockoff of the Subway sandwich chain logo. Its “mascots” were sandwiches stuffed with cannabis leaves and featuring, in a nice touch, bloodshot eyes. This isn’t Vancouver’s first such experience: Another pot shop was successfully sued by Toys “R” Us Canada for using the name Herbs R Us.In the U.S., we have a cannabis knockoff problem that’s a little more insidious. I haven’t heard of any pot shops imitating national chains, but there have been instances of THC-laced candy and other foods that have led to lawsuits by Ferrera Candy Co., Frito-Lay, Mars, General Mills and others. In some cases, the knockoffs do the porn-movie thing of a twist on a legitimate name, like “Zkittlez,” clearly meant to evoke Mars’s Skittles. Others don’t even bother with a parody name, simply slapping a THC warning on packaging that is otherwise indistinguishable from the real thing.

What strikes me is the insouciance of these cannabis copycats. How in the world did they think they would get away with this? Did they seriously think Subway, Mars, etc., wouldn’t notice? (It’s worth noting that the Budway people didn’t bother with a defense against the Subway lawsuit.)

Cannabis and the porn industry have something in common: an illicit history and an ambiguous current legal status. As long as this is the case, the cannabis market will continue to be dominated by fringe players, some of whom will inevitably be wise guys promulgating knockoffs.

We can continue to play Whack-A-Mole with knockoff products, or we can bring cannabis into the mainstream by straightening out our laws and regulations. Once that happens, bigger and better-heeled players, with access to credit and all the other good stuff that you can get when you’re totally legitimate, will be free to develop the market. That means new products, supported by proper R&D and marketing, and an end to cheesy knockoffs.

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