To legally sell marijuana to a medical or recreational consumer, the labeling and packaging must be compliant and product safety and public health concerns must be proactively addressed.
In the marijuana industry, infused producers (edibles, concentrates, etc.) and packaging and container companies are transferring license risk and public health and safety liability to dispensaries and retail stores.
This occurs every day — and on a massive scale.
Labeling and packaging
In order for a packaged marijuana product to be compliant, it must satisfy all of the Federal, State and Local regulations concerning product sale, public health and safety.
As an example, here in Colorado, all labeling must be greater than 1/16th of an inch, conspicuous, and include all required warning statements for medical or retail sale. Examples of warning statements for Colorado include:
- “There may be health risks associated with the consumption of this product.”
- “There may be additional health risks associated with the consumption of this product for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning on becoming pregnant.”\
- “This product is infused with marijuana.”
In the last three months of regulatory compliance audits, Adherence Compliance found that 100 percent of the medical dispensaries and retail stores have had Labeling, Packaging & Product Safety infractions and/or violations. At present, missing statements required for sale is the number one infraction based on audit events in Colorado.
Here’s what a non-compliant label looks like from an infraction, or violation perspective:
- MIP ships marijuana non-compliant product without required statements or rules for resale.
- Dispensary or Store accepts non-compliant marijuana product.
- Dispensary or Store displays non-compliant marijuana product.
- Dispensary or store sells non-compliant marijuana product.
Each time a shipment occurs, multiple violations are created, mostly for the license selling the product. The MIP, in the example above, shipped non-compliant product that created at least four (4) license and/or public health and safety violations. A few of the biggest MIP providers in Colorado are shipping non-compliant product every day.
As the industry evolves, the marketing departments have taken over and labeling and required statements are falling to the wayside. To make space for their increased logo sizes and branding, statements are often made smaller, non-conspicuous or removed.
The onus for MIP providers is that each state has its own rules and requirements for labeling and packaging. As each producer expands into other states, they will experience increased marketing and labeling costs due to state-specific requirements.
Product safety: “Pop-top” bottles
The prevalent solution for many of our clients concerning product containers has been inexpensive pop-top bottles from various vendors. Though they have the required RX compliant stamp, many of the containers are made of cheap materials that can easily break off, such as the tops.
That being said, the containers would no longer be child-resistant, thereby defeating the purpose of the compliant stamp. Additionally, cheaper materials used in pop-top bottle production can “off-gas” into the marijuana product or flower itself. The cheaper production materials used may cause adverse health and human safety effects.
One question I ask most of our clients is this: “Do you see pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies using “pop-top” bottles for packaging?”
Not even aspirin can be sold in a pop-top bottle. To reduce the risk of children ingesting dangerous items, federal regulations (and U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission) require CR packaging and the use of a special safety cap for all prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications. In some jurisdictions, unit packaging (e.g. blister packs) are also regulated and required for child safety.
The product packaging and container companies in the marijuana industry are non-compliant in terms of federal regulations for prescription and over-the-counter medications. Any time marijuana product or flower is sold in a pop-top bottle, the event itself is disregarding established federal guidelines.
While marijuana establishments may not be afforded federal rights due to the current classification of marijuana, it does not remove public health and safety rules and regulations, federal oversight and/or fines and penalties.
To evolve and mature, the Cannabis Industry needs to address the current landscape of non-compliant labeling, packaging (containers) and product safety.