Mike Tyson’s Ear-Shaped Edibles Show the Paternalism of Cannabis Regulators

Mike Tyson wants to market cannabis edibles shaped like ears with bite marks in them. Love him or hate him, you have to admit it’s clever. He’s apparently having a hard time getting his “Mike Bites” to market, due to regulators who apparently can’t take a joke or regulations that don’t seem to make any sense at all. While this is a pretty extreme example, it highlights the absurd lengths that some states will go to in order to tightly control products. Let’s unpack this a bit.

A few weeks ago, Mike Tyson’s proposed deal with a Canadian cannabis producer apparently got put on ice due to regulations in Quebec and Alberta that prohibit advertising relating to a specific person. More recently, Colorado regulators apparently said that Mike Tyson’s cannabis edibles cannot be sold in Colorado due to a law that prohibits products shaped like people.

This is probably going to keep happening to Mike, as many other states have regressive laws that prohibit products shaped like various things. For example, regulations in California (a state with a long history of over-the-top labeling requirements) prohibit ” Any cannabis product in the shape of, or imprinted with the shape, either realistic or caricature, of a human being, animal, insect, or fruit.” Many other states have similar laws.

There are plenty of reasons why a state might want to prohibit certain types of edible products that are shaped like foods or fruits. Maybe certain shapes could be easily mistaken for non-cannabis foods. Maybe they would appeal to kids. These are legitimate things that a regulator should try to avoid. Then there are the host of other things that the regulators try to do with no rational basis or policy goal.

What regulators often do to avoid any flak is to just claim that the things they are banning are appealing to minors. But it does not seem like there is a defensible, clear policy rationale for prohibiting cannabis products that are shaped like body parts or that advertise specific people. I certainly can’t think of any rationale.

Whatever you may think of Mike Tyson or Mike Bites, the fact remains that a lot of effort went into developing the product and product marketing, and bureaucrats will eventually shoot it down based on laws that don’t make a lot of sense. These kinds of regulations do not advance any real policy agenda. Instead, they make it more difficult for people to launch new and creative brands or products.