In addition to the traditional forms of cannabis, authorized medicinal cannabis access points are now in the business of producing “medibles,” edible treats that contain medicinal cannabis. When a medical cannabis access point decides that it wants to participate in production and distribution of medibles, there are some important aspects that must be taken into consideration.
The first thing any cannabis business selling medibles should consider is the product liability law in Washington State. As either the manufacturer or distributor of medibles, these medical cannabis access points have duties to the consumers of their products. Under the Washington Products Liability Act, manufacturers are subject to a modified version of strict liability. Strict liability exists when a person is legally responsible for the damage caused by his or her acts regardless of fault or culpability. Distributors, on the other hand, must be found negligent in most cases in order to be liable for a product defect. Medicinal cannabis access points may be deemed either manufacturers or distributors with respect to medibles, depending on how the medibles are created and who was responsible for creating them.
Manufacturers are liable for defects in the product’s design, defects in the labeling or warnings on the product, a failure in the product’s construction or a breach of express or implied warranties. Distributors that are not also manufacturers are only liable if harm was caused by negligence, breach of an express warranty between the distributor and the user of the product or if there was intentional misrepresentation by the distributor to the consumer regarding the product. Whether deemed a manufacturer or distributor, a medicinal cannabis access point needs to be aware of the Washington Products Liability Act because that Act is now applicable to their products.
Other things that must be considered when setting up a medical cannabis access point are relevant city ordinances. For example, Seattle has a city ordinance mandating that medicinal cannabis access points and others that produce medibles operate out of a commercial kitchen or face being shut down by the health department. The city also requires access points obtain a food handler’s permit. Title 10 of the Seattle Municipal Code sets out the public health standards required for those engaging in food manufacturing, including edible cannabis products. The requirements of the city’s public health code specify that operators must obtain a permit in addition to complying with the array of ordinances related to running a commercial kitchen. The application process requires inspection by the Director of the Department of Health, which includes a records check and ensuring that the entity is complying with relevant zoning ordinances.
All of the concerns that should be factored in when operating a medical cannabis access point should be considered when you are considering whether to add medibles to your menu. Health department regulations provide an added wrinkle to an already lengthy regulatory process. Not only is the access point providing cannabis — a thorny enough problem — but by adding food preparation to the mix, operators who are not careful could find themselves running afoul of a multitude of ordinances as well as State law.