It may well go beyond a slap on the wrist and the company could end up being fined as the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy says SeaWeed’s use of a mermaid image runs afoul of rules designed to inhibit underage use.
The Portland (MA) Press Herald reports…
When Scott Howard created the branding for SeaWeed Co., a recreational marijuana retail shop in South Portland, he wanted to emphasize the company’s local roots and evoke thoughts of the Maine seaside. The mermaid seemed like a natural fit.
However, despite Howard’s stated intentions and no matter how apt the association may be, the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy has taken issue with the half-woman, half-fish figure clutching a seashell that now graces much of SeaWeed’s merchandise. Howard is facing a $10,000 fine for the “willful use of a prohibited image.”
According to the rules for the state’s newly opened adult use program, packages or labeling depicting humans, animals or fruit are prohibited, as are packages or labels that would “reasonably” appear to target or appeal to anyone under the age of 21.
Furthermore, the rules prohibit advertising or marketing of cannabis products “that is attractive to persons under 21 years of age … including images and items commonly marketed toward individuals under 21 years of age.”
Vernon Malloch, compliance director for the Office of Marijuana Policy, told Howard in a December notice that not only does the mermaid logo depict both a human and an animal, it also “is generally known that mermaids are featured in a number of stories, movies, toys, costumes and other popular culture items and marketing aimed at young children and teenagers, and so images of mermaids have inherent and particular appeal to individuals under 21 years of age.”
According to the letter, Howard and Hannah King, an attorney with the law firm Drummond Woodsum, were previously made aware that the Office of Marijuana Policy did not approve of the logo.
The notice cites a June letter from SeaWeed’s lawyer outlining her legal analysis that the logo “does not run afoul of the adult-use marijuana packaging and labeling laws,” and a request that the department find the rules “do not prohibit in any way, SeaWeed from utilizing the mermaid logo … on any and all adult-use marijuana packaging labeling, marketing and advertising.”
The office denied the request.Seaweed Notice of Administrative Action 12152020 (1)
On top of a $10,000 fine, the office ordered Howard to “immediately halt” the use of the mermaid logo on any adult-use marijuana products, labels, packaging, website or marketing materials. Howard has 120 days to pay the fine, according to the notice.
The mermaid logo was noted during an Oct. 22 inspection, according to the violation notice. Malloch, the compliance director, reportedly told Kasper Heinrici, the store supervisor, that the violation was “substantial” given the previous discussion with King, and said he planned to place all products with the logo on “administrative hold.”
“(Heinrici) stated that the action would effectively shut down SeaWeed’s business operations … because most inventory at the store at that time was within the scope of the administrative hold,” the notice said.
Malloch and Heinrici reportedly agreed that SeaWeed would continue sales with the mermaid logo for “a short period of time” while the company worked to relabel and cover the mermaid with an image of a marijuana leaf on existing packaging.