Photo via mhiguera
Working in the candy industry seems like a fun gig, but for the legal team at Hershey's Co., it’s serious business. Last year, the candy industry leader sent cease and desist letters to several canna-businesses, accusing them of ripping off their popular products to market cannabis edibles. Good Girl Cannabis Co., an edible maker in northern California, and Oakland-based dispensary Harborside both received legal notices from the candy maker last year. Good Girl was able to quickly settle their dispute out of court, but Harborside ended up locked in a months-long legal battle.
Last April, Harborside received a cease and desist letter demanding that they stop selling Jolly Meds edibles due to their resemblance to Jolly Ranchers. The confectionery giant demanded a $20,000 payout from the dispensary, but Harborside was not the manufacturer of these products, only a retailer. "Hershey's came on strong," Henry Wykowski, the dispensary's attorney, said to NBC Philadelphia. "We thought this was an appropriate time to take a stand, not only on behalf of ourselves but on behalf of other people who are similarly situated." Harborside filed a countersuit, and Hershey's eventually backed down. Jolly Meds changed their product and company name to J:Meds last year.
These lawsuits are not Hershey's first attempt to block unwelcome imitations of its branding. Back in 2014, the company hit Seattle-based Conscious Care Cooperative with a complaint accusing them of trademark infringement and dilution. According to the suit, the cooperative was selling products like “Reefer's Peanut Butter Cups” and “Mr. Dankbar,” which spoofed the popular Reese's and Mr. Goodbar names and packaging.
That same week, the company's lawyers also sued a Colorado edibles maker, Tincturebelle, for trademark infringement. Both cannabis firms caved to the larger business, and settled for damages out of court. Hershey’s representatives accused these edible makers of besmirching their reputation, but also brought up concerns that children might accidentally ingest these cannabis products, thinking that they were real candy.
Canna-businesses that have received cease and desist letters from the chocolate giant shouldn't take it too personally, though, as Hershey's lawyers have always been especially litigious. Back in 2009, Hershey's sued a West Virginia company named Reese's Nursery and Landscaping for allegedly trying to cash in on their famous Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.
California attorney Amanda Conley, who represented a canna-business sued by Hershey's back in 2014, advises edible makers who might be considering a cute spoof of a popular product to think twice. “You don't want to be in this fight,” she said to NBC Philadelphia. “You have so much money to spend right now on compliance and other issues, the last thing you need to be doing is having a fight with Hershey's.”