Crabcakes, Cannabis, and the First Amendment: Old Bay Doesn’t Find Us Funny
In case you missed it, Crabcakes & Cannabis® recently decided to stop selling our popular “420 bud” sticker after receiving an aggressive cease and desist letter from global seasoning giant McCormick & Company— makers of Old Bay® seasoning. The novelty sticker, which parodied the iconic Old Bay spice jar, sparked controversy as McCormick alleged trademark infringement and potential tarnishing of their image.
Our founder, Jennifer Culpepper, stated in a recent interview, "While we firmly believe in the protection of parody and First Amendment rights, the prohibitive cost of litigation led us to make the difficult decision to discontinue our parody sticker. We stand by the fact that no reasonable consumer would confuse a sticker with a food seasoning product."
The cease and desist letter from McCormick & Company claimed that the parody sticker, featuring the words "420 BUD" in a design reminiscent of the Old Bay can, was “likely to harm the reputation of the OLD BAY® trade dress, create a wrongful association with McCormick, and tarnish McCormick’s goodwill.” McCormick also went as far as to say that the company “takes this matter very seriously, as it is not in the business of sponsoring products relating to marijuana use.”
Jennifer told news outlets, "We deeply respect businesses' (and artists’) rights to safeguard their brands. Still, it is paramount that we strike a balance between these rights and the freedom of expression and creativity that parody affords. When a large business bullies a small business through costly litigation, it makes standing up for your rights nearly impossible. Regardless, we still love Old Bay, and our parody sticker was always intended to pay homage to the history and traditions of the Free State, not to tarnish any reputation or brand."
Crabcakes & Cannabis has long embraced the unique cultural and traditional facets of Maryland. The parody sticker served as a lighthearted tribute to two quintessential elements of Maryland life – Old Bay seasoning and the cannabis culture.
Jennifer is also the founder of Brand Joint, a local branding agency, and has been on the other side of copyright infringement in the past. Therefore, C&C has always been very careful not to copy, but rather to create fun and unique parody designs that celebrate Maryland icons.
While we are sad to bid farewell to our beloved sticker, we remain committed to our mission of spreading joy and creating community among Maryland cannabis enthusiasts. In the spirit of encouraging creativity, we hope that this experience will spark a broader conversation about the importance of protecting parody and freedom of expression in our society.
A HUGE THANK YOU to the Maryland cannabis community for your continued support and to all of the local journalists who took the time to cover our story. Every social media comment and share, every article, and every interview means the world to us as a small local business. We look forward to continuing to cook up dope apparel and accessories that celebrate cannabis culture and the unique heritage of the Free State.