Washington and Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in late 2012, becoming the first states to enact laws allowing adults to purchase and consume marijuana without a prescription.

There are now 18 states with legalized recreational marijuana/cannabis, each governed by different boards and commissions that have a patchwork of regulations for the growing, distribution, manufacturing, and retail sale of marijuana products.

This blog from ImEPIK will examine the food safety regulations for companies that manufacture marijuana products in Washington.

Washington State Agencies Handle Food Safety for Cannabis-Infused Products

A growing number of states have legalized adult-use and medical marijuana programs, and they address food safety through various regulations. Although states are legalizing marijuana, it is still illegal at the federal level, so it is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or any other federal entity.

The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) has oversight of recreational use, but the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) licenses and regulates companies that make food products containing marijuana. The state’s agriculture department has officially handled the licensing and regulation of food products containing cannabis in Washington since April 2018. However, the WSLCB had contracted those services through the agriculture department before then.

What’s Allowed — and Banned — in Washington’s Edibles Markets

Washington companies that make marijuana edibles — referred to as “marijuana-infused edibles” (MIEs) in regulations — must adhere to a list of approved products. According to Washington statutes, only low-hazard foods that do not support “bacterial or toxigenic” growth are allowed.

Approved MIEs in Washington include:

  • Baked goods that do not need refrigeration, such as cookies, brownies, and fruit pies;
  • Candies and chocolates;
  • Flavored water and carbonated beverages (depending on the formulation);
  • “Stove-top treats,” which are confections made from sugar or syrup to which flavorings and/or colorants have been added. These include molded chocolates, fruit rollups, roasted nuts, and non-baked bars or granola products; and
  • Dry mixes, including coffee granules, leaf tea, soup mixes, and seasonings.

A processor can infuse fats or oils with marijuana, but only if used as an ingredient to produce an MIE.

MIEs that are not approved for production in Washington include:

  • Any food that must be temperature controlled (frozen, refrigerated, or heated) for food safety purposes;
  • Foods that require acidification to assure food safety (such as barbecue sauce or ready-to-drink tea);
  • Products that must be cooked/baked by the consumer;
  • Dairy products;
  • Foods that require pasteurization for food safety;
  • Fruit/vegetable juice, except shelf-stable concentrates; and
  • Pies containing eggs.

All MIE manufacturers in Washington must have a state-issued marijuana processor license, receive an MIE endorsement from the WSDA, and have their packaging and labeling approved by the WSLCB. In addition, the WSDA must review and approve all recipes for MIEs before packages and labels are accepted.

Manufacturers cannot make marijuana-free food in an MIE production facility, and a facility where non-marijuana food items are made cannot be used to make MIEs.

Processor license holders agree to allow inspections of the processing facility and examination of any recipes and records as required by the Washington Administrative Code.

Edibles, Especially Gummies, Continue to Boost Sales

Recreational and medical use of cannabis is now legal in Washington StateRegardless of laws that oversee the production of MIEs, they continue to be a growth market for the U.S. cannabis industry. Driven by consumers new to the market who choose not to smoke, demand for edibles expands as more states approve recreational and medical marijuana programs.

A recent report on the U.S. edibles market by MJBiz shows that edibles are keeping pace with the overall growth of cannabis sales. Based on data from analysis firm Headset, MJBiz reported 2021 edibles sales grew by 20 percent from the previous year, from $1.15 billion to $1.38 billion. Of that, nearly $1 billion came from sales of gummies, according to MJBiz. Headset tracks sales in California, Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.

Stay Ahead of Food Safety Regulations with ImEPIK

ImEPIK’s online safety courses for cannabis-infused products are designed to help cannabis companies comply with state and local safety regulations, ensuring that each company and facility makes a quality product. Although the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act isn’t required (yet) for the cannabis industry, federal oversight will be approved at some point.

Be prepared to meet federal standards by enrolling employees in ImEPIK training program for cannabis-infused products. Contact us today at support@imepik.com, via our website chat, or at +1-866-318-9855.