Why Should I Care about Cannabis Packaging and Labeling Requirements?

We saw some of our favorite cannabis brands and products disappear from dispensary shelves after July 1, 2018 due to new local cannabis packaging requirements. For many of these cannabis products, there wasn’t even anything wrong with the actual products themselves — they were simply non-compliant in terms of California’s new packaging laws. Dispensaries had to dispose of hundreds of cannabis products and brands that did not have compliant marijuana packaging, and many of those brands have yet to return.

Noncompliance with cannabis packaging and label regulations can have dire consequences. Within any industry, packaging and labeling are detailed activities requiring great care great to comply with regulations such as those set forth by the Federal Drug Administration. This is especially true in the cannabis industry. Failure to properly package and label your products may result in a range of negative outcomes from government fines and restrictions to, in extreme cases, harm to customers.

A proactive approach to compliant marijuana packaging and labeling falls upon the business owners. As with most things in the cannabis industry, there are additional requirements for packaging to consider at the state and local levels. For example, in California there are individual requirements (and related checklists) for labeling depending on the type of cannabis product (e.g., flower, oil extract) and product size (e.g., small containers, pre-roll tube).

How Do I Comply with Cannabis Packaging Requirements?

A good rule of thumb when reviewing your marijuana package and label compliance is to start at the top — and not we’re not just talking your state regulator, but rather all the way up in the federal government at the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). This will enable to you consider key areas such as:

  • Is it Child Resistant Packaging (CRP)? Not just according to you, but it is certified CRP?
  • Will it pass all of Phase II testing requirements?
  • Did you include the appropriate label information on your primary and information panels?
  • Is the information clear, readable, and understandable to the average consumer?
  • Would the packaging appeal to minors and children?
  • Are the products properly packaged according to dose size?

Next is your state regulator. Using California as our example, the agency responsible for cannabis packaging and label compliance is the California Department of Public Health’s Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch (MCSB). Understanding how this agency works, and who to speak to within it, can greatly enhance your ability to comply with California’s unique cannabis packaging requirements.

cannabis packaging example

Understanding the Regulations: Structure First, Content Second…

It is helpful to review and understand the regulations from this bird’s eye view prior to digging into the dirt. This is the first step to gaining a clear understanding of state cannabis packaging requirements. Here is the structure of California’s labeling and packaging regulations:

1. Labeling Requirements: General

1.1. Labeling Requirements: Cannabis Flower
1.2. Labeling Requirements: Cannabis Concentrates
1.3. Labeling Requirements: Ingestible Cannabis-Infused Products
1.4. Labeling Requirements: Non-Ingestible Cannabis-Infused Products

2. Packaging Requirements: General

A. Child-Resistant Packaging or Exit Bag Required
B. Opaque Packaging Required
C. Packaging Shall Protect from Contamination
D. Packaging that Primarily Appeals to Minors Prohibited
E. Reasonable Resemblance to Trademarked Products Prohibited
F. Unit Demarcation or Separation

Source: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CEH/DFDCS/MCSB/Pages/Regulations.aspx

This outline will help you understand the starting points for compliant cannabis packaging. For instance, if you suspect that your product might have issues regarding child-resistant packaging, or opaque packaging, you can inquire further as to what your options and limitations are in that regard. For more information on CDPH’s Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch, visit www.cdph.ca.gov/mcsb.

Are Your Cannabis Packaging Designs Compliant?

You may need additional guidance or feedback regarding the details of your company’s products. Get in contact with us today and we can help discuss your packaging and labeling approach, and can help you understand what’s at stake when it comes to non-compliance. A fully compliant product is an asset that can bring consistent returns in the long-term; failure to comply can seriously hamper a cannabis business’ longevity.

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