SAN DIEGO—The California Consumer Protection Unit (CCPU), a state-funded watchdog responsible for “truth in advertising,” has reported a glut of medical marijuana patient complaints regarding outrageous product claims and is finally reacting.
“Patients are apparently fed up with the overuse of wild adjectives by dispensaries that describe the quality of their medical cannabis with words like ‘premium’ or ‘exclusive’ to justify shamefully high pricing,” says CCPU Director Gladys Palmer. “It’s a pretty egregious form of price gouging and really misinforms the buying public.”
Widely used terms like “top shelf,” “private stock,” and “black label” are just a few of the descriptors used by dispensaries hawking their often fair-to-middling products, while very few are actually of a high enough quality to be called “premium” consumer goods.
“I mean, this is medicine right,” says patient Juan Delgado of La Jolla, “you don’t even see the pharmaceutical companies going this crazy with their ads. They don’t call their stuff Premium Lipitor or Solid Gold Viagra.”
Greg Olson, a lawyer hired by California NORML to help CCPU officials with the fraudulent packaging and marketing assertions, says that visiting a medical MJ dispensary these days feels a lot like walking onto a used car lot. “You go in for some good bud and everything is labeled Exclusive Reserve or Platinum Extreme Label,” he says. “I’m not trying to be tricked into buying a ’97 Ford Escort. I just want some good quality cannabis.”
The notice, sent out to dispensaries by CCPU this week, requires that retailers will need to “validate their outrageous claims, and stop using such inflated descriptors where it isn’t warranted, or face closure by the state.”
“Go ahead and call your strains God’s Gift and Super Silver Haze,” says Olson to dispensary owners. “But don’t think that you can get away with equating all of your inventory to a private-reserve status.”
Of the 81 California dispensaries that received letters for the infraction, none were available for comment. Olson adds, “Let’s wait and see if recreational cannabis passes this election cycle, then you can go ahead and make up all the silly names you want to help you sell weed. But until then, put your snake-skin jacket in the closet for a minute – let’s remember you’re providing medicine to patients that need it.”