(CNN)At first glance, it looks like a single serving bag of Nerds Rope that your child might eat as a treat. But take a closer look. See the word "medicated" and the small white box at the bottom that says 600 milligrams of THC?
The bags look like well-known chips or candies, but what's inside could harm children
Those three letters stand for tetrahydrocannabinol, the part of the marijuana plant that makes people high.
Eating even a small fraction of that bag would "overwhelm a child," said Danielle Ompad, associate professor of epidemiology at NYU School of Global Public Health and senior author of a new study investigating copycat packaging in cannabis sales. The study was published Tuesday in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
Another candy package Ompad examined was nearly identical to the popular candy Gushers. The label says the bag contains 500 milligrams of THC, while a look-alike bag of Doritos contained 600 milligrams. The resemblance to the brand-name products is uncanny, she said.
"The Nerd Rope knockoffs I have personally seen looked just like the licensed product," Ompad said. "The (knockoff) Doritos were shaped just like the real thing and had a crunch as well."
Eating 500 to 600 milligrams of THC would be a huge dose, even for an adult. "If I ate that whole package, I would be miserable. People who are using edibles recreationally aren't typically eating more than 10 milligrams," Ompad said.
A thorough examination finds no manufacturer listed on the copycat packaging, she said. However, empty bags mimicking dozens of major brands of snacks and candy can be purchased online in bulk, she said, making it easy for small businesses to join the marketplace.
"The reputable business people in cannabis do not engage in this kind of conduct," said Henry Wykowski, legal council for the National Cannabis Industry Association. "There are other people that are still operating in the illicit market and they aren't following the rules."
"We would like to assist in stopping this. It's not good for anybody," he added.
"Many cannabis edibles companies are overstepping on marketing in an egregious way, putting consumers at risk and infringing on the trademarks of well-known and trusted confectionery brands," said Christopher Gindlesperger, the senior vice president of public affairs and communications for the National Confectioners Association, in an email.
The association has established a set of guidelines for states considering deregulation of cannabis.
"We're focused on making sure that the appropriate guidelines and policies are set for distinguishing cannabis-containing edibles from traditional confectionery," Gindlesperger added.
Manufacturers of various major candy and chip brands such as Mars Wrigley, Hershey Company, Mondelez Canada and Ferrara Candy Company have undertaken legal actions against a few companies that are selling knockoffs.
"We are deeply disturbed to see our trademarked brands being used illegally to sell THC-infused products, and even more so to hear of children ingesting these products and becoming ill," said a Mars spokesperson in an email.
"We encourage consumers to reach out to their local authorities with any tips on these illegal products," the spokesperson said.
While anyone might mistake a copycat candy or chip with the