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Company advertising and selling bubblegum

Aug 02, 2023

Exclusive: Ethically Enhanced website sold Hubba Bubba-flavoured vapes containing cannabidiol, as owner of bubblegum brand considers legal action

A company advertising brightly packaged Hubba Bubba-flavoured cannabis vape products to Australians through sponsored TikTok posts and selling them without checking for ID or requiring a prescription is being investigated by the country’s drug regulator.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration confirmed it was investigating the content and owners of the Ethically Enhanced website, which sells vapes containing cannabidiol under the name Temple CBD Australia. A TGA spokesperson said the regulator would now “determine the most appropriate regulatory action”.

The confectionery giant Mars, which makes Hubba Bubba chewing gum, confirmed it was also “considering legal action” against the company.

Temple CBD’s targeted “sponsored posts” were active on TikTok for at least a week, despite Australia not allowing medicinal cannabis products to be advertised to the public.

After being contacted about the advertisements, TikTok banned the account for breaching its policies, but said it was the “responsibility of the advertiser to ensure that all ads posted on TikTok are legally compliant, in accordance with our advertising policy and appropriate for our community”.

“We have strict policies and guidelines relating to all content on our platform including ads,” said Jed Horner, TikTok’s country policy manager. “These policies are established, publicly available and clear to prospective advertisers.”

Temple CBD has also promoted their brightly packaged CBD vapes and oils as being available in well-known confectionery product flavours such as Trolli and Hubba Bubba on Instagram and Facebook. A spokesperson for Hubba Bubba’s parent company, Mars Wrigley Australia, said they did not endorse these products.

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“We are taking this matter extremely seriously and investigating legal options given this is a clear misuse of our brand,” they said. “It is disappointing to see it being leveraged for these types of unregulated products in Australia.”

Trolli’s parent company were also contacted in regards to their brand name being used to sell cannabis vapes.

Under Australian law, medicinal cannabis products must be prescribed by a medical practitioner. Importing products containing cannabidiol, one of the chemicals found in the cannabis plant, requires permission from the Office of Drug Control, and can only happen under the TGA special access scheme by an authorised prescriber, or for clinical trials. Domestic supply of CBD requires a licence and permit from the ODC and can only be legally supplied for medicinal purposes.

Becky Freeman, a tobacco control expert and associate professor of public health at the University of Sydney, said: “The gummy bear and bubblegum flavours say it all, really.

“These would clearly be highly appealing to children, the only barrier to access being the high price. Even if [children] did not purchase them directly themselves , just seeing these products would make them highly desirable. The ‘all natural’ claims also appear to be a marketing ploy designed to make users believe the products are safe and harmless.”

The website was selling the flavoured 900mg CBD vapes for $159, with free shipping to Australia.

A spokesperson for TikTok said the Temple CBD ads were delivered to accounts of users who were over 25.

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Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok have been asked by the TGA to remove the unlawful promotion of Temple CBD’s medicinal cannabis products directed at Australians from their platforms. A spokesperson for Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, confirmed the company is reviewing the posts and ads.

The Ethically Enhanced website is registered to a Canadian address, but its products ship to Australia only. The Facebook page for the company states its headquarters are in Byron Bay, New South Wales.

The website also makes numerous unproven claims about the products including that they treat arthritic pain, anxiety, depression, fatigue and insomnia, despite the products not been subject to independent clinical testing or peer review. The website also claimed it could not make any company-held laboratory results testing their product’s quality and cannabinoid levels, available to the public due to the TGA’s regulations around using medical documentation to promote CBD products, however elsewhere on the website are multiple claims that these products successfully treat numerous ailments.

The website also boasts that with every sale, a portion of the profit is donated to Mind Medicine Australia, a charity lobbying for changes to regulations around the use of psychedelics in treating mental health conditions.

But Peter Hunt, chair of Mind Medicine Australia, said the charity has never received any money from Temple CBD Australia and has “no idea who this organisation is”.

“We are not associating ourselves with them in any way,” he said. “As an organisation we are focused on the use of legal medicines within our medical system and we do not advocate in any way for people to take substances that are prohibited by law.

“We are against any marketing of substances that is aimed at children in this way.”

Temple CBD did not respond to requests for comment about the TGA investigation.

After Temple CBD was contacted on Thursday about Mind Medicine Australia’s comments, the remaining Ethically Enhanced social media pages and website were taken down.

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