When some people hear the term counterfeit, they innocently might think: purses, watches, or jewelry. It may seem harmless, but making and buying counterfeit products serve a health hazard to the consumer, promote an unsafe working environment in those places that produce them, and do a great harm to the authentic company whose products are being copied.
Cannabis Brands are starting to establish themselves as top-dogs in the game. With that comes brand recognition. Brand recognition is the reason people buy and sell fake goods. Strong brands can create a sense of belongingness in the crowd, a touch of elegance, or the appearance of wealth. Buying an affordable copy of the brand, therefore, may seem like a no-brainer. With the lower price, however, come a much higher cost.
One of the largest counterfeit industries in 2017 centered around makeup. A good example is the Kylie Jenner™ lip products. The company is exclusively e-commerce; however, teens and adults alike buy fake products from vendors on the streets and eBay. These counterfeit goods are sold at a third of the price of the original cost (1). At first everybody who bought these counterfeits thought they were ahead of the game, showing off these luxury products to their friends. It wasn’t long though before investigative laboratory analysis found that just about every one of the counterfeit products sold contained damaging and dangerous compounds such as glue, gasoline, arsenic, and lead. This was causing terrible physical reactions in consumers, and, in extreme cases, caused people’s lips to glue shut (2).
Counterfeit Cannabis products represent just as much of a safety hazard as counterfeit cosmetics. Neither adhere or follow any laws or safety standards. They are not regulated by a government agency, and people buy these products do so at their own risk. Unsanitary working conditions in counterfeit factories hurt the employees as much as they hurt the customer. Illegal cannabis farms are covered in pesticides, fungi and bacteria. The products they produce can potentially be laced with heavy metal and fungus, damaging one’s health beyond control (3).
And of course, the original brand itself will suffer from the backlash caused by the bad performance of counterfeit products, as people mistakenly think they are authentic and represent the entire brand. Back in 2007, the DEA tracked down an edible company producing “Kif Kat”, putting an end to this branding rip-off “lawsuit waiting to happen” (4). Everyone knows what a Kit Kat™ bar is, and the Cannabis manufacturer was using Kit Kat’s powerful brand recognition to sell their product. This not only exploits the makers of Kit Kat™, but also takes advantage of the consumers by hijacking their expectations of receiving a product of like flavor and quality to a Kit Kat™ bar.
A delicious-looking, brand-infringing, Cannabis “Kif Kat” edible.
The laws and regulations for Cannabis are put in place to ensure the health and safety of the consumer, not as some arbitrary measure to increase prices. The only way to assure we, the consumers, are always buying the real thing is to buy from the original dispensary. Look at the packaging, the barcode, labels, and assure yourself that the product itself is sold by the brand. Purchasing counterfeit cannabis may seem like an affordable solution for a buying items from a recognized brand, but the reality is: you get what you pay for.