Laws are going to vary by state so lawyer up and make sure you read all the fine print. And laws change as the industry grows and responds to interest groups so keep that lawyer nearby.
Here In WA, we do have legal cannabis and infused edibles but both are only sold in licensed stores where they check ID at the door. So no bakeries or cafes where you can hang out and eat a THC muffin with a CBD latte. Public consumption is illegal (but mostly ignored).
Since I’ve been in pastry and chocolate for my career, a lot of people asked me if I was going to do edibles when we first legalized - I thought it sounded like too many extra hoops to jump through. Now I’m working one day a week with a startup cannabis candy company and my suspicions are confirmed. All the challenges of a food business plus a bunch of extra rules. That doesn’t mean there’s not money to be made, but …
First all the usual challenges of finding kitchen space and skilled labor. Areas where production is allowed are limited to pockets at least 1000’ away from schools, parks, and other places children may congregate. A company using THC can’t share a kitchen with a company who isn’t, and you have to have lockable doors in between rooms and cameras at every angle.
Next, each piece has to be sealed in 4 mil plastic. We have a flow wrap machine, it’s pretty fast when you get into a groove but still an extra step, extra cost per piece, and a several thousand dollar machine. And sometimes it goes off kilter and crushes a bunch of pieces. Then pack those into boxes, which isn’t that a big deal but for me, going from restaurants to (my own) packaged candy 5 years ago, the time and expense of packaging was a surprise. 25% food cost isn’t good enough anymore. Now add the plastic, the box, labor on both, and the fact that you can only sell wholesale.
And rules can change. Recently the LCB decided against allowing gummy/jellies, anything decorated or brightly colored, and candy with sprinkles. This put a few companies out of business because they were only making jellies. (This is supposedly to minimize appeal to children, as a child I never turned up my nose at chocolate that was merely brown, but whatever. I think it’s up to parents to keep their edibles well hidden or locked up along with their liquor, guns, prescription meds, porn, and household poisons).
Here, the THC is supposed to be “thoroughly intermixed”, meaning not just putting a drop of oil somewhere on a cookie and calling it good. Every gram also has to be tracked and accounted for. There are always little edges, or maybe you drop a piece. I’m still not clear on how we account for the waste, but at some point ‘wasted’ product gets chopped up and mixed with dirt. It seems like a constant challenge with how many pieces we were supposed to get out of a batch, how many we actually got, and how they tested. Samples are also regulated, you can only give employees or prospective buyers so much per month. No ‘I Love Lucy’ shoving candy into your mouth while flow-wrapping scenes allowed - they can check your camera footage any time.
But the biggest challenge I see with the company I’m working for is getting the dosing perfect every time. We’re doing everything by hand and I love handmade but I just don’t think we’re getting every piece close enough to identical. Every batch has to be tested (at additional $$) , and you’re supposed to pick a random sample for testing. There are expensive machines that can help, of course. But say you want to make chocolate chip cookies, you’d have to make sure they each had exactly x grams of medicated dough and x grams of chocolate chips, two chips too many on the same size cookie could throw your dosing off.
So if you can think of a product that’s shelf stable and easy to make and pack in as few steps as possible but most of all get consistent accurate dosing, keep exploring. There is a fair amount of bad candy out there, maybe a lot of people don’t care and just want to get high. We’re hoping there are people who want candy actually worth eating that also gets you high.