As the legal landscape surrounding cannabis continues to evolve, the creation of robust, sensible and consistent safety regulations remains stalled. A patchwork of broadly inconsistent state rules and regulations, along with years of federal inaction and policy stagnation have the potential to create significant risks for consumers. Given the industry’s explosive, multi-billion-dollar growth, consumers have access to an ever-increasing number of products produced by an increasing number of actors, pursuant to widely divergent standards and rules. Given this, the industry would be well-served to take on the responsibility of promulgating a coherent regulatory framework with robust (but sensible) safety regulations. The importance of collaboration among cannabis industry stakeholders cannot be overstated if we are to develop and adopt consistent standards that guarantee product safety at every step of the supply chain.
To mitigate these risks, it is vitally important for the cannabis industry to collaborate in the ongoing development of safety standards. This means understanding and implementing safety measures starting with the cultivation process. Careful consideration should be given to factors such as the use of pesticides and herbicides, soil quality and irrigation methods. Standardized safety testing to ensure uniformity between products for potency, contaminants, heavy metals and microbial organisms is crucial to consumer safety. Accurate and comprehensive labeling is likewise necessary for consumers to be adequately informed.
For as long as consistent state and federal guidelines governing cannabis safety remain elusive, the need for industry self-regulation will be paramount. Cannabis companies must work together to share best practices, establish standard operating procedures and adopt stringent safety measures. By promoting transparency and collaboration, stakeholders can build credibility and consumer trust while fostering a safer and more reputable industry.
As the industry continues to grow, it is incumbent upon all stakeholders to continue prioritizing consumer safety through, among other things, a focus on education and inter-industry collaboration, if we are to continue cultivating a trustworthy and sustainable cannabis market for the future. The path forward will require stakeholders to pursue continuous education, improvement, and collaboration in the development of a holistic safety framework capable of ensuring consumer safety.
Ten years ago, “cannabis packaging” didn’t extend very far beyond throwing buds into a plastic baggie – in fact, the term wasn’t even really a recognizable category. The lack of product packaging attention-to-detail was understandable at the time; the industry was still predominantly underground, and brands were much more focused on staying afloat amidst global prohibition and crackdowns.
Fast forward to today’s cannabis landscape, and it’s practically unrecognizable. Brands have figured out that, not only is proper cannabis packaging essential for providing consumers with a safe, reliable product, but it offers businesses an inimitable opportunity for marketing to their audience and establishing brand identity.
Because of this, the legal industry has gotten increasingly creative and playful with their packaging, using the space to connect with their audience, leave a lasting mark and obtain that covetable consumer loyalty the retail world is always hungry for.
The beginnings of cannabis packaging: Preserving integrity in a growing market
I entered the cannabis world as a home grower – exclusively for my brother, who has pretty intense cerebral palsy and gets tremendous medicinal relief from the plant. I’ve been growing for him for years, and in my earlier days I found myself losing a lot of cannabis to the elements as time passed: mold, pests, etc. I figured there had to be a better way to preserve what I was cultivating for long-term storage.
After visiting a dispensary in Colorado to get some ideas, I realized all of their packaging was overkill. It didn’t do anything to actually nurture the plant, or give it what it needs for successful lasting preservation. So, I got even more interested.
I started looking into what chemically happens to cannabis after you dry it and I discovered there was no real information on the topic yet. So, my team and I started looking into how we could contribute to this arena – sort of creating this whole new category and awareness around curating, storage, long-term plant viability, shelf life and conditions for quality cannabis.
We looked at a variety of elements for proper packaging – like UV protection, humidity and moisture control, odor control and oxygen control – and worked hard to develop some materials that would factor in all of these considerations for an end-goal that I believe should be universal.
When it comes to cannabis packaging, the most important thing you should be thinking about is integrity throughout the supply chain: delivering products to patients in the way that it was intended to be delivered from the grower for optimal medical results.
Proper packaging is critical for the industry. It contributes to operational efficiency, eliminates waste, maintains full moisture and humidity rates and helps businesses protect their bottom line.
It allows operators to deliver better, more viable and more potent medicine to patients – and that is absolutely what’s most important. Giving patients the full efficacy of the plant, unadulterated and unmolested by the supply chain.
Utilizing cannabis packaging as a powerful marketing tool
That’s how cannabis packaging was first developed – to protect products and keep them safe and effective for consumers. Since then, the sector has totally evolved to encompass even more elements. There’s a lot more education about drying and curing, and how to preserve the integrity of cannabis as it moves from seed to sale.
Brands have also started recognizing a dual opportunity alongside safe cannabis packaging: an effective means for marketing and advertising. In a space where we’re so restricted on how we market our brands, having great packaging is beautiful, convenient and reminds the patient of the brand behind the product they’re currently enjoying.
This is a critical opportunity for brands to cement their reputation and form a relationship between themselves and their clients. “Consumer loyalty” is a magic term that a lot of brands are chasing today, and the biggest way to achieve that is with consistent, high-quality packaging that allows operators to maintain integrity within a supply chain they just can’t control.
Cannabis packaging is the consumer’s first reaction to your product. It’s the plating. And the way it’s presented has a major effect on how customers view your brand. Think of your packaging as a type of billboard: every consumer carrying around a branded bag of your pre-rolls is a walking advertisement and ultimately an ambassador.
The 12-inch vinyl LP cover art of our generation is the one-eighth flower pack. Just like those records are all music, these packages are all cannabis, but these brilliant creatives all over the world are getting to attack an identical canvas with radically-different approaches and aesthetics.
It’s a ubiquitous thing – like designing a watch. From Timex to Rolex, all of these brands have been creating iterations from the same basic layout to do the same basic thing: tell time. That is constraining, but it also pushes people to get really innovative and imaginative.
In the cannabis realm this is just the beginning of utilizing packaging for brand identity and loyalty. Innovating your cannabis packaging provides an incredible framework for seeing different ideas and inspirations come to life. It’s a cannabis collaboration with artists in its most newborn infancy and there’s a lot of exciting potential there. Beyond a billboard and a brand voice, packaging is a keeper of the quality, consistency and potency your customer deserves.
ASTM International has announced the approval of a new standard in development that could have potentially wide-reaching influence on the cannabis industry throughout the world. ASTM’s cannabis committee (D37) has approved the new standard (D8449) for development that aims to develop internationally aligned label specifications for all products containing cannabinoids.
According to the press release, The new labeling standard is the first of its kind, attempting to harmonize regulations throughout the cannabis industry with universally recognized labels that could be adopted by regulators anywhere in the world. ASTM member Darwin Millard has spearheaded the development of this new standard and believes it will have countless practical applications.
“Having the same information presented in the same manner across jurisdictions means consumers of products containing cannabinoids will have consistent information conveyed to them in a way they are familiar with,” says Millard. “This ensures consumers have the information they need to make an informed purchase decision, and will ultimately lead to increased consumer safety and confidence.”
ASTM International is a nonprofit, voluntary consensus-based standards development group. They are inviting feedback and input as they refine the standard and work on presenting it to the international cannabis community. “We welcome regulators, producers, and consumers from around the world to give us feedback,” says Millard. “This is intended to be a living document to remain relevant throughout this ever-changing landscape.”
That said, between the 38 states, there’s plenty of differences and those show up in the nitty-gritty details that appear on the product label – health warnings, regulatory statements, THC symbols, THC limits and more.
This fragmented regulatory environment creates confusion, cost and risk. It also challenges brand owners and licensees to be thorough in their discussions around costs and responsibilities. Planning for packaging & labeling in advance will help maintain brand integrity, control costs, and ensure compliance across states. Here are some of the nitty-gritty details to consider:
Building a successful brand starts with giving it a name and designing a distinctive look that speaks to your target market. Are you selling in one state or do you plan to expand? Commonly, state regulations prohibit images of humans, cartoons and children as well as any resemblance to commercially available non-cannabis consumer food, beverage or candy products. But what about images of fruit? Be careful. Be prepared to adapt. In Massachusetts and Illinois, images of apples, lemons and berries on the package are fine, but in Maine and Maryland they’re not. Some states regulate colors and layout.
Within labeling regulations, some states specify easy-to-read fonts (e.g., Arial, Helvetica, Times Roman), font style (e.g., bold, all capitals), and font size (e.g., 1/16” is the minimum in some, 1/12” in others). Illinois relies on reasonable judgment – “Warning statements should be of a size that is legible and readily visible to a consumer inspecting a package.” If you may have any questions on legibility, think about what an inspector may say.
Warnings & Regulatory Statements
Warnings printed on cannabis labels differ from state-to-state but all contain verbatim statements regarding health risks, pregnancy, breastfeeding and emergency instructions. Most advise caution though some say “impairment” while others say “intoxicating” and “illegal.”
Regulatory statements, like warnings, are usually provided verbatim. The statements can be age requirements, health authority disclaimers or testing disclaimers. Always required is the manufacturer name, contact information and a version of “keep away” from children and animals.
Edible labels are regulated the same as consumer packaged foods so must include ingredients, allergens, nutritional values, but some states require more or different information. For example, depending on the state, consumers are warned that edible “effects may be delayed.” In Massachusetts, Illinois, New Jersey and Maryland, the label specifies the delay could be “2 or more hours.” In Maine, New York, the warning says “4 hours or more.” Other states simply warn without a quantitative measure, or fail to mention it.
One of the more obvious examples of differing labeling requirements between states is the THC symbol. Starting with CA and CO, each state that legalized cannabis chose to design and adopt a unique THC symbol (with the exception of ME, VT and MA, which share one). In 2020, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation proposed a universal THC symbol, the “International Intoxicating Cannabis Product Symbol (IICPS)”. In 2022, ASTM International recognized the symbol and published the Standard Specification for International Symbol for Identifying Consumer Products Containing Intoxicating Cannabinoids and it’s starting to take hold in the U.S.
Batch Specific Information
This is the label that is printed on site and applied to a finished package. Again, requirements may differ between states but typically, at a minimum, this label will include a batch number, product identifier, manufacture date, weight, package date, test date and cannabinoid potency values, and more.
A growing segment of consumers are becoming more educated and seeking to make informed decisions about the cannabis products they are inhaling, ingesting or applying. Beyond THC and CBD potency, they want to know about other cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. For them, QR codes that link to this information are highly valued. Is this part of your brand strategy?
When designing the package for any one state, it’s important to create a template batch label and specify on the label artwork where it will be applied. This way, you will avoid stickers covering your beautiful branding or worse, obscuring regulatory content.
And Finally,The Container
Cannabis packaging suppliers offer a wide range of containers designed to meet federal child resistance regulations. (Request certification documentation for your records.) Other considerations are the brand strategy. What’s the “look and feel”? Simple for the budget-conscious, premium for the luxury buyer? Will you be offering single servings, multiple servings, how many flavors/strains?
In addition to the usual variables such as volume, price and delivery, cannabis manufacturers also need to have an eye on state regulations when making procurement decisions. Some states are considering aligning sustainability goals with cannabis packaging requirements. For example, within New York’s proposed adult-use regulations is a provision for manufacturers to incorporate at least 25% post-recycled consumer content into their packaging. While the law as written may not get adopted, the movement for states to consider sustainability in cannabis packaging regulations has begun.
The variation in labeling regulations between 38 states is in the nitty-gritty details. Brand owners & licensees that take a strategic approach to expansion will minimize cost of goods, maintain brand integrity and ensure compliant labeling in each state they sell.
The success of reputable cannabis and CBD brands has inspired an influx of inexperienced and disreputable competitors in the market. These so-called “bad actors” in CBD advertise products that are not manufactured under current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP), which help to ensure that all products are consistently produced and controlled according to specified quality standards. cGMP helps guard against risks of adulteration, cross-contamination and mislabeling to guarantee product quality, safety and efficacy.
CBD products without cGMP regulations are often inaccurately labeled and deceiving to consumers. In fact, in a test of over 100 CBD products available online and at retail locations, Johns Hopkins Medicine found significant evidence of inaccurate, misleading labeling of CBD content. The prevalence of such brands not only reduces consumer confidence in CBD but also limits the growth of the sector as a whole. Fortunately, CBD consumers and retailers can easily discriminate between a well-tested, reputable brand and inferior bad actors with a few straightforward, minimum requirements to look out for when selecting a product.
Why are “bad actors” a problem for consumers and the industry?
Bad actors in CBD sell products that are not produced under cGMP conditions and are typically not tested by third-party laboratories to ensure identity, purity, quality, strength and composition. This means they are not verified for contaminants, impurities, label claims and product specifications. This frequently results in misleading advertising with inaccurate levels of cannabinoids or traces of compounds not found on the label, like THC. To combat this, the FDA issues warning letters to actors that market products allegedly containing CBD—many of which are found not to contain the claimed levels of CBD and are not approved for the treatment of any medical condition. Still, bad actors manage to slip through the cracks and deceive consumers.
Bad actors that put anything in a bottle and make unsubstantiated medical claims hurt the reputable operators that strive to create safe and high-quality products. It is easy for consumers to be drawn to CBD products with big medical claims and lower prices, only to be disappointed when the product does not produce the advertised results. Inaccurately labeled products may contain unexpected levels of cannabinoids, including ingredients that consumers may not intend to ingest, like Delta-9 or Delta-8 THC. Along with unexpected levels of THC, many CBD products available now are not as pure as advertised, with one in four products going untested for contaminants like microbial content, pesticides, or heavy metals.
Further, inaccurate labeling of products and their compounds also prevents consumers from establishing a baseline impact of CBD on their bodies, leaving them vulnerable to inconsistent future experiences. Such a poor experience can turn consumers off to the category as a whole, drawing their trust away from not only the bad actors but also the reliable, reputable brands on the market. The saturation of the market with these disreputable brands delegitimizes a category that has only just begun to break down the stigmas, creating stagnation rather than growth as consumers remain wary of low-quality products.
How can consumers identify bad actors in CBD?
There are several simple ways to identify a bad actor among CBD products and make certain that both consumers and retailers purchase quality, reliable and safe brands in legitimate sales channels. To start, consumers should avoid all CBD products that are marketed with unsubstantiated medical claims. This is a significant area of abuse, as brands that relate any form of CBD product to a disease state, like cancer, should not be trusted. The science to support such medical claims has not been completed, yet, product marketing is years ahead of the evidence to support such claims. Unsupported medical claims could also mislead consumers that may need more serious medical intervention.
Additionally, consumers must review the packaging, which should include nutrition information in the form of a supplement fact label. The label should include the serving size, number of servings per container, a list of all dietary ingredients in the product and the amount per serving of each ingredient. All labels should include a net quantity of contents, lot number or batch ID, the name and address of the manufacturer, and an expiration or manufacturing date. These signs of a reputable brand are easy to look for and can save consumers from the trouble of selecting the wrong CBD product.
What to look for when selecting a CBD product
With this in mind, products from reputable, tested brands can be identified by a few key factors. Reputable CBD companies are already compliant with the FDA regulations on nutritional supplements, including a nutritional or supplement fact panel on the packaging—just like vitamins. The information in this panel should include all the active cannabinoids in the product, both per serving and package. Clear potency labeling allows consumers to confidently select products that suit their needs and understand the baseline impact of CBD concentration on their bodies, thus helping them to tailor their experience with thoughtful product selection.
Reputable brands also include a convenient QR code on the packaging, linking the product to a certificate of analysis that details the testing results to demonstrate compliance with product standards and label claims. In terms of specific ingredients, consumers should be skeptical of high concentration levels of “flavor of the month” minor cannabinoids, which are often associated with unsubstantiated medical claims. Current scientific research has set its focus on major cannabinoids like CBD and Delta-9 THC, leaving additional research necessary for understanding minor cannabinoids. Minor cannabinoids are typically included in full spectrum products at concentrations found naturally in the cannabis plant, which is a safer approach to consuming CBD until more research is completed.
Consumers should not let the existence of unreliable, untrustworthy brands curtail their confidence in the CBD sector—there are many high-quality, safe and trusted brands on the market. With a knowledgeable and discerning eye, consumers and retailers can easily select top-quality CBD products that millions of consumers have found to improve many aspects of their health and well-being. Looking ahead, clear federal regulations for CBD products that require mandatory product registration, compliance with product labeling, packaging and cGMP will be crucial in weeding out bad actors and will allow compliant companies to gain consumer trust and responsibly grow the CBD category.
As the cannabis industry grows and the category becomes increasingly crowded, package design is more important than ever. Impactful and meaningful branding is key to getting noticed, differentiating from the competition, connecting with consumers and ultimately making the sale. Today’s cannabis labels are more varied than ever before. They can be fun or luxurious, contemporary or retro, colorful or simplistic. Many brands are moving beyond traditional cannabis leaves to more unique, modern, and unexpected interpretations of cannabis plants. Others are forgoing leaf imagery altogether in favor of more evocative graphics, minimal design or mainstream motifs.
While there is no one-size-fits-all design for cannabis packaging, there are many regulatory requirements and branding best practices to consider. We’ve outlined some critical things to keep in mind before starting your cannabis package design.
Know Your Target Audience
There are a variety of cannabis users, each with unique needs, interests and attitudes. Understanding who you’re targeting is essential in determining the appropriate brand design strategy. Graphics for millennials will look different than those for baby boomers. But demographics aren’t the only thing to consider when identifying your target consumer. Euromonitor International has identified several lifestyle and personality-driven consumers segments:
Seasoned Consumer – consistent, daily consumer who defies stereotypes and often consider themselves connoisseurs.
Casual Social – regular but not daily consumer who uses cannabis as part of their broader lifestyle.
Dabbler – occasional user who is familiar and comfortable with cannabis but unlikely to use it regularly.
Cannacurious – consumer who is interested in cannabis and demonstrates an openness to using it.
Understanding the motivations of various consumer groups and looking beyond stereotypes or traditional age- and gender-driven demographics can help reach consumers in a more targeted, authentic, and compelling way.
Have a Unique Brand Personality
Design often provides the first impression for a brand, especially in the cannabis category. The first step in developing a winning package design is to determine the best design strategy to differentiate from the competition, communicate your brand story and connect with consumers. Start by thinking about what personality fits your brand, what kind of experience you want to create and what emotions you want to evoke. Do you want to feel healthy and medicinal? Earthy and natural? Sophisticated? Whimsical? Each personality inspires different design solutions. The designers at Studio One Eleven, the Design & Innovation Division of Berlin Packaging, begin each branding project by developing design platform boards that showcase different ways to communicate the brand personality through design, including color, typography, imagery, and more. These platform boards are a great tool to gain alignment on the most effective and appropriate design strategy before digging into tactical design approaches. They can also help guide brand design across other touchpoints, including digital, social media, and advertising.
Understand Regulatory Requirements
Packaging in the cannabis and CBD industries is heavily regulated. In addition to attracting consumers, your package must comply with local, state and federal regulations. Some states mandate that cannabis packaging can’t appeal to children – so no cartoon images or graphics that resemble familiar candy brands. The FDA prohibits cannabis products from making health-related claims, so it is essential to carefully assess the language used on packaging. Vital information such as ingredients, warnings, health risks, impairment of abilities, proper dosage, batch number and more must be included on cannabis labels.
These are just a few of the package design requirements to consider. Regulations can vary from state to state, so finding a packaging partner who understands the complex and constantly change rules is critical. Berlin Packaging has been a trusted resource for cannabis packaging since 2014. We are uniquely positioned to help cannabis and CBD companies of all sizes in the fast-paced, ever-changing cannabis industry.
Consider All Aspects of Your Package
Beyond graphics, tactile elements can be important to the overall brand design experience. Label material, thickness and texture, embossing and foil stamping, and die-cuts can create a premium impression and add visual interest. Structural design can also help differentiate from the competition and create an elevated user experience. How a package opens and closes, dispenses and doses, and protects and preserves the product inside are all essential considerations. Berlin Packaging has a vast network of manufacturers with hundreds of stock bottles, tins, jars, tubes and closures in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials to choose from, as well as custom solutions available through Studio One Eleven.
Understanding your target consumer, identifying and communicating a unique brand personality, complying with all regulatory requirements and taking a holistic approach will lead to impactful packaging that wins with consumers and grows your business.
In an emerging industry like cannabis, there’s always going to be the latest and greatest tool or technology to improve operations that are just in their infancy. In fact, as a cannabis business operator, it’s likely you hear from at least one or two salespeople a week, selling the next best thing to make your operations that much more efficient.
But, not every piece of technology or tool is well-suited for each individual operation. Even more, some solutions are just temporary band-aids and aren’t built for longevity or for the future maturation of the budding industry.
Of course, at a time when cannabis businesses are struggling to even turn a profit – it’s even more important to look at your processes, and automate or optimize what you can to increase your bottom line.
So, how can you make the right decision when it comes to making an investment in automation technology? Keep reading to learn the top 3 tips for successfully vetting automation tools for efficacy, efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
Tip #1 – Identifying what to automate
The goal of streamlining operations with automation technology isn’t to ‘automate anything and everything’. It’s automating the right parts of production to help scale growth and increase profitability. To do so, operators should look at bottlenecks in their production line or process.
Once you’ve identified the areas that slow production, it’s time to look at which areas are better candidates for automation than others. For instance, tasks that are highly variable are not ideal for automation. That’s because every time a variance occurs, you’ll spend extra time and effort reconfiguring your automation tool or technology to match.
To dip your toes into the automated waters – find one of those highly repeatable tasks, purchase a small, cost-effective solution and see just how it impacts productivity. If you see that a small change made a big difference – there’s scalability. After this due diligence, you can move forward in contacting more robust manufacturers for improved equipment designed for long-term use and wide scale implementation.
Tip #2 – Choosing the right manufacturer
Speaking of manufacturers – choosing the right one is just as crucial. It shouldn’t come as a shock that not all technology or equipment can be treated equally. If the type of automation technology or equipment you choose is produced by a variety of manufacturers, here are the top things to consider when deciding which is right for you:
Customer support – You might think, ‘how hard can it be’ or fall for the sales pitch that a tool or piece of equipment is so easy to implement – reliable, dependable, and accessible support isn’t necessary. But that could not be farther from the truth. When questions or issues arise with the automation technology you choose – you don’t want to lose time, production, or money while you wait for a solution. Even though technology with customer support may cost more upfront, think of it this way. You’ll either pay up now or later. So, what will you choose? Paying a premium from the start to hit the ground running with 5-star equipment, technology and support? Or, saving a couple of bucks now, just to lose time and productivity due to a lack of customer support and lower-quality technology later.
Manufacturer experience – In cannabis, most manufacturers come from other fields and lend their experience and skills to new areas of operation and production. That means you’ll want to take a hard look at the team’s core roots and where they come from to understand just how their work will translate. Looking for professionals who are trained in high-tolerance, precision engineering is ideal for automation. Working with teams with this temperament ensures that they typically hold themselves to a high standard. Just remember, the team you’ll work with is a culmination of people who create a result. It all comes down to whether the team you choose has a track record of doing so, and how well they’ve served prior customers, too.
Customer reviews – Want to discover how good or bad the team is, beyond what they tell you themselves or before it’s too late? To truly find out, ask their past or current customers.
Tip #3 – Learning from others
Of course, looking at successful operations and what they’ve chosen to automate for efficiency always helps, too. So, what is one common area that operators are increasingly optimizing for significant ROI on automation investments and efforts?
Label applications. Label application is one process that almost any cannabis business can see an immediate return on investment in, across the board. While other areas of automation will vary and rely heavily on your volume, individual bottlenecks, and unique drops in productivity – most cannabis operations can increase efficiency by automating this non-varying, highly repeatable task.
The Final Word – Using Automation To Your Advantage
Automation technology exists for a good reason. It helps cannabis business operators maximize efficiency, stay in compliance, reduce costs over time and, in turn, increase profits. But the wrong automation technology for your processes won’t do anything of the sort. It will only muddy operations, waste precious capital and set you back in the long run.
So use these three tips to find the right automation technology tools, software and solutions to use to your advantage – before your competitors get a leg up.
In an unprecedented move, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warning letters today to companies selling products containing delta-8 THC. In total, the FDA sent out five warning letters to companies for violating the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act).
The violations include illegal marketing of unapproved delta-8 THC products as treatment for medical conditions, misbranding and adding delta-8 THC to food products. Back in September of last year, the FDA published a consumer update on their website, seeking to educate the public and offer a public health warning on delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol, otherwise known as delta-8 THC.
Delta-8 THC is a cannabinoid that can be synthesized from cannabidiol (CBD) derived from hemp. It is an isomer of delta-9 THC, the more commonly known psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis. Delta-8 THC does produce psychoactive effects, though not quite as much as its better-known cousin, delta-9 THC. Many regulators and industry stakeholders are increasingly concerned about the rise in popularity of delta-8 products, namely because of the processing involved to produce it. Delta-8 THC is often synthesized using potentially harmful chemicals.
The FDA has a history of sending a lot of warning letters to companies marketing CBD products inaccurately and making drug claims. Earlier this year, they sent a number of letters to companies claiming that CBD can cure or prevent Covid-19.
According to Janet Woodcock, M.D., principal deputy commissioner at the FDA, they are getting more and more concerned about the popularity of delta-8 THC products sold online. “These products often include claims that they treat or alleviate the side effects related to a wide variety of diseases or medical disorders, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, nausea and anxiety,” says Woodcock. “It is extremely troubling that some of the food products are packaged and labeled in ways that may appeal to children. We will continue to safeguard Americans’ health and safety by monitoring the marketplace and taking action when companies illegally sell products that pose a risk to public health.”
The FDA sent warning letters to the following companies selling delta-8 THC products:
According to projections, counterfeiting and piracy could reach $2.3 trillion in the US alone, bringing the economic cost to $4.2 trillion globally by 2022. The pandemic made the billion-dollar problem even worse. Products that you directly ingest or place in contact with your body have become a target for counterfeiters introducing some serious side effects.
More than 70% of the CBD products purchased at unlicensed CBD shops in the Los Angeles area failed after-market laboratory testing according to the SC Labs report brought by the United Cannabis Business Association (UCBA). More than half of the tested samples labeled as hemp or hemp-based did not qualify as hemp. Perhaps the biggest concern is the level of contamination which in some cases, were several hundred times the allowed limit.
With the rise of synthetic cannabinoid agonists, some of them having a structure similar to THC, it is hard to keep track of the complete list. The majority of these chemicals are produced in Asia without standards or regulations. The most extreme case has been a version of synthetic cannabis laced with rat poison that led to several deaths.
Last year in Florida, synthetic THC was to blame for daily emergency calls to Poison Control. Poisoning cases linked to counterfeit cannabis edibles tripled between 2019 and 2020.
Vaping is growing rapidly in popularity. An illicit market has emerged and with it a rise in Vaping-Associated Pulmonary Illness (VAPI). Over a hundred cases have been reported in California contributing to over a thousand reported cases nationwide.
Consumers pay a harsh and unnecessary price with their health, risking long-term damage or even death. If you don’t know the source, it is very difficult to identify counterfeit cannabis products. Still, some telling points can help you identify the fakes:
Authentic-looking products available at dubious prices perhaps bought at a gas station or a convenience store.
Packaging that matches a reputable brand, without the brand’s logo and missing required details such as an amount of CBD and THC per serving.
Missing laboratory testing information
Legitimate product manufacturers and brand owners suffer financial losses, as well as something even more precious – trust and reputation.
Essential elements of a brand protection program
Are you running a business in the cannabis industry? It is your top-quality product the customers want and not some third-rate knockoff. How can you provide your customers with the means to verify that their product is genuine? Let’s weigh several methods.
1. Provide images and videos of an authentic item on your website
Customers can visually compare the details of the product.
Customers need to know your website and navigate to a specific page with product details. You need to capture several details of the product.
2. Label each item with a unique product code. Optionally use a hologram image as an additional anti-forgery
Customers can verify a single product code instead of several visual details.
You must be able to generate unique product codes and maintain a database of these codes for later verification.
You need to implement a solution for customers to authenticate their product codes.
3. Use a product number authority like ProdNum to issue and validate unique QR product codes for you
Customers don’t need to retype an alphanumeric product code, merely scan a QR code with a camera to get instant verification.
The manufacturer doesn’t need to implement and maintain a custom solution.
You need to arrange printing of the QR codes on the package or stickers you will attach to each product.
The inevitable drawback of a profitable cannabis business is the fact it attracts counterfeiters. Businesses and customers joining forces in the never-ending battle against counterfeiting is a winning scenario for both.
As more states legalize the use of cannabis for both medicinal and adult use, the market is growing exponentially. For growers and dispensaries, that means bringing their ‘A’ game when it comes to marketing their cannabis products – and that includes labels.
Not only do your cannabis labels need to be compliant with regulations, but you also need to make sure they stand out from the competitors. However, while creating a label seems like it should be easy, it can be a challenge to navigate the complex and murky legal landscape.
But don’t worry, we’ve got your back! Let’s take a look at the key federal regulations you need to be aware of, what NOT to put on cannabis labels and expert advice to help you find the perfect label material for your brand. Let’s get started.
Cannabis Labeling Requirements: What You Need to Know
As of now, cannabis has not been ruled legal in all 50 states. However, states where cannabis is legalized determine their own set of rules and guidelines. These legislative guidelines are constantly being updated and revised for the labeling and packaging of cannabis products, so staying compliant can be challenging for dispensaries and manufacturers.
Since packaging laws vary by state, it’s important to follow general federal regulations for your product, as well as check your state for cannabis-specific label requirements.
At the very least, you should understand and follow cannabis labeling regulations in accordance with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act (FDCA). Let’s dive right into the basic elements that FDCA requires when labeling cannabis products.
Name and Location of Business: It is critical to always include the name and location of your business on both the inner and outer information panel. In doing so, customers always have a way to contact you for any questions. If you are worried about taking up too much space, a QR code is a great way to offer additional information.
Product Identity: Is your product meant to be used for adult or medicinal use? You must include what your cannabis product is or does on the Product Display Panel (PDP) so it’s easy for customers to locate.
Net Quantity of Contents: Net quantity refers to the total weight or volume of a finished product (excluding packaging) and is federally mandated on labels. For packaged liquid cannabis products, net quantity should be labeled in fluid measure. Meanwhile, packaged solid, semi-solid and viscous cannabis products should be labeled in dry weight.
Warning Statements: Since cannabis is still listed as a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance, it’s recommended to include warning statements for the specific product types. For example, the warning statement should stay “for medical use only” for all medical cannabis products.
List of Ingredients: You must include a complete declaration of all ingredients in your cannabis product. This must be listed on the informational panel on the outer packaging. If there is no outer packaging, then it must be placed on the product package itself.
Disclosure of Critical Facts: In general, this includes critical information that customers would want to know when buying your product. This can include:
Suggested use for the product
What NOT To Put On a Cannabis Label
Proper cannabis labeling can ensure you remain compliant with regulations and legal requirements. Without compliance, you won’t be able to sell your products and could lead to a hefty fine – and nobody wants that! Here are the things you should stay away from adding to your label:
Unapproved Health Claims: As of now, both federal law and state laws do not recognize cannabis as a dietary supplement or substance that can help prevent, cure or treat serious diseases. For that reason, your safest bet is to stay away from making any false health claims on labels and websites.
Obscured Fonts: Text and font issues can muddle the look of your cannabis label and land you into compliance issues. Most states require cannabis labels to have a font and text size that is prominent, clear and easy to read for information panels. Therefore, it is critical to find typography that showcases your brand while maintaining compliance with federal and state regulations.
Faulty Ingredient List: Cannabis labels must accurately include the types of compounds present, it’s percentage and dosage found in the product. Plus, it is required that all cannabis products include cannabinoid profiles and provide a list of any active ingredients.
Considerations for Labeling Materials
To cut through the noise in a highly competitive retail environment, it’s critical to carefully consider the label materials for your cannabis product. Here are some things to consider.
Label Material Choice: Polypropylene or Paper
Take into account what your cannabis product is (tincture, gummies, etc.) when choosing your label material. For example, if it’s a liquid cannabis product, your label can come into contact with the liquid itself, causing damage and risk the label falling off over time. For that reason, the polypropylene label would be the better choice because it’s waterproof, oil-resistant and offers more durability. On the other hand, if your cannabis product does not require a lot of protection and you are looking for a more affordable option, then paper labels would be the better option.
Coating Choice: Matte or Glossy
Choosing between matte or glossy finish depends on your preferred brand aesthetic. If you are looking to dazzle some customers and have a vibrant design on your cannabis label, then it’s best to choose a glossy finish because it holds the ink better. As a result, your label design will appear striking and crisp when printed! But, maybe that’s not the vibe of your cannabis brand so you’re looking for something more traditional. If so, a matte finish is a better choice because it absorbs some of the ink – producing that vintage, distressed look!
Your cannabis products deserve to stand out and shine in this booming market. But your product won’t even make it to the market if you are not following label requirements. Proper cannabis labeling ensures that the product is compliant, builds trust with your customers and boosts your credibility within the space. Since requirements are constantly evolving in this new industry, you must always triple-check with both federal and state regulations for the most up-to-date information in regards to cannabis product labeling. In doing so, you’ll be able to design an enticing package with proper labels that will earn heart eyes from consumers, while providing essential information about your product.
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