The big challenge for most companies in the emerging cannabis industry is how to package and label their product to be compliant with state regulations while still having it look great and carry the brand’s message to the end-user. Because of all the requirements, this is not an easy task. This article is not going to list all of the current regulations as those are still in flux, but it will provide some of the major rules as well as advice on how to assure that your packaging system is compliant, and how to avoid costly mistakes.
In most states that allow legal sales of cannabis, it is required to have the product in some form of child resistant packaging. However, those regulations can be quite specific, and they vary from state to state. To compound matters, in California (the largest market in the nation), the packaging regulations are in flux – with proposed changes and temporary regulations laid over the existing rules.
Unfortunately, while it may be difficult to navigate this myriad of packaging regulations, it is imperative to do so. Recently, some cannabis companies in the Golden State had to take a large loss on packaging when it was found to not meet regulations. Accordingly, before any cannabis company invests in custom, quality, and expensive child resistant packaging, it is essential to know the rules in order to avoid significant extra costs and delays.
The most important thing to remember is that virtually everywhere cannabis is sold, it must be in some form of certified child resistant container. Different types of products and different dose sizes require different labeling and packaging. There is debate currently in California as to whether or not that container must house the individual product, or if it can simply be a child resistant exit bag. Nonetheless, child resistance is mandatory. The days of sandwich bags and cheap imported containers that are not child resistant are over.
There are also specific requirements regarding the labeling of cannabis products. All cannabis products sold in the state of California are required to have two labels affixed to the packaging (or printed on the packaging). These are called the “Primary Panel” and the “Informational Panel.” These Primary Panel must contain specific information, including:
- The product’s ID/name with text relatively sized to the most prominent text on the packaging.
- For infused products, the phrase “cannabis-infused” must appear directly above the product ID/name in bold text in a font size even larger than that used for the product ID/name.
- The state-instituted THC symbol.
- The product’s net weight and/or volume.
- The product’s content of both THC and CBD, written in units of milligrams per package.
- The product’s content per serving of both THC and CBD, written in units of milligrams per serving.
- The font size of the primary panel must be at font size 6 or greater while remaining in relation to the size of the panel itself as well as the cannabis product packaging or container.
The Informational Panel must include specific information, including:
- The name and contact phone number or website of the licensed manufacturer of the marijuana product.
- Date that the product was manufactured and packaged.
- The following wording must appear verbatim in bold print:
GOVERNMENT WARNING: THIS PRODUCT CONTAINS CANNABIS, A SCHEDULE I CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE. KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN AND ANIMALS. CANNABIS PRODUCTS MAY ONLY BE POSSESSED OR CONSUMED BY PERSONS 21 YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER UNLESS THE PERSON IS A QUALIFIED PATIENT. THE INTOXICATING EFFECTS OF CANNABIS PRODUCTS MAY BE DELAYED UP TO TWO HOURS. CANNABIS USE WHILE PREGNANT OR BREASTFEEDING MAY BE HARMFUL. CONSUMPTION OF CANNABIS PRODUCTS IMPAIRS YOUR ABILITY TO DRIVE AND OPERATE MACHINERY. PLEASE USE EXTREME CAUTION.
There are also rules regarding what a cannabis label or package can NOT say. For instance, you cannot use images that may appeal to children, such as cartoons or gummy bear shapes. California is expected to strictly enforce the rule that packaging cannot imitate any product that may be deemed attractive to children. Even fonts and phrases that may be deemed as alluring to children are off-limits.
Additionally, making claims that a product was grown in a specific California county is prohibited unless all of the cannabis used was grown in the named county.
Furthermore, making misleading claims, especially health-related statements, is prohibited.
And if this weren’t complicated enough, in California, there are THREE agencies that regulate cannabis. Each has their own rules and regulations. And if you were going to ask, “Will the state just review my design and let me know if it’s approved before I go to print?” the answer is a resounding NO. The state will not review designs, and in fact, if and when the state looks at your packaging, you had better hope it is compliant, or it will be removed from the shelf and destroyed.
These are just some of the regulations that impact cannabis packaging and labeling. Please remember that the regulations noted in this article are for California, and are in flux and may change. There are also many other regulations affecting packaging. Therefore, none of the rules mentioned in this article can be assumed to be complete or used as legal advice.
That’s why it is vital to work with a company that has expertise in cannabis packaging, and has current, up-to-date knowledge of the rules in your state. While you may already be following 90% of the rules, it is vital to follow 100% of them. There is simply no excuse not to follow all rules and regulations in regards to packaging.
As for advice, let me say this: There are some packaging companies that are simply large re-sellers of many of types of enclosures. They don’t even claim to have expertise in your state’s regulations. The onus is on the buyer to make certain that their packaging is compliant. In short, they’ll sell you anything, without making any promises of usability.
There are a few other packaging companies that have compliance experts on staff. They closely follow the rules and rule changes, and will only provide you with a solution that meets your state’s regulations. They know that you are not an expert in packaging rules, so they offer their expertise in order to give you a system that meets your business needs and meets all state regulations.
So unless you are a true packaging, compliance and regulation expert, turn to a premier packaging company that offers knowledge, experience and expertise in this vital area.