A recently released report by the University of Washington School of Law's Cannabis Law and Policy Project identifies several key factors that may make food items, including marijuana edibles, attractive to children.
While most other forms of cannabis are not super-attractive to the majority of children, a growing variety of marijuana-infused edibles includes a lot of things that look quite appealing to kids. Since keeping marijuana away from children is a crucial policy objective in states with legalized marijuana, the report may come in handy for politicians and policymakers.
It is hard to determine what are the factors that make cannabis edibles seem like a good thing to eat to children. Because of the obvious ethical constraints, it is impossible to actually run a trial with cannabis edibles to determine which would attract children the most. Therefore, the report is based on the assumption that the same mechanisms are at work with both cannabis edibles and usual food items.
Using the aforementioned approach, the scientists at the University of Washington have identified a number of physical elements that factor into the perception of food as “attractive.” One of the basic easily identifiable parameters is the color of a specific food. Yellow, orange, red, and green foods have turned out to be preferable to foods that come in other colors. The shape also plays a significant role: novel shapes (e.g. animals or stars) are more attractive than old boring sticks or slices. When it comes to smell, the effects are twofold: foods that smell good (“fruity,” “sweet” or “like candy”) are attractive, but a bad smell does not work as an effective deterrent. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the taste is the key factor that makes food appealing or appalling to children.
When it comes to non-physical factors influencing the appeal of foods, it seems that cartoon and other promotional characters can exert a strong influence on a kid's preferences in food. As for advertising, it has its effects on children aged between 2 and 11 but is probably mostly ineffective in teens.
The report also examines how the labeling and packaging of cannabis edibles is handled in states with legalized marijuana. According to the report, a majority of these states require that cannabis edibles are only sold in opaque packaging that can conceal the contents from the eyes of children. This packaging is also required to be child-resistant. States also tend to prohibit the sale of cannabis edibles that look like usual confections such as lollipops, gummy bears, or cotton candy.