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New cannabis packaging regulations, white labeling and more

The California Cannabis Business Conference offered discussion on new recreational market rules, while suppliers displayed new packaging, machines and services.

STO Responsible sustainable boxes
STO Responsible sustainable boxes

Live from the NCIA California Cannabis Business Conference in Anaheim, packaging panelists discussed the new “final” state regulations released Friday, Oct. 19.

There is some pretty significant news with packaging/branding implications, and it’s important to note that the comment period for the public is only 15 days (by Nov. 5).

New California regulations

New regulations highlight the need for child-resistant (CR) primary packaging on most items.

First, there is a grace period until Jan. 1, 2020 which allows for CR exit packaging in the absence of a CR primary package.

After the grace period, most multi-dose items will need resealable CR primary packaging unless individual doses are themselves child-resistant. Single-serving, topical or inhaled products will be able to use one-time CR packaging, if labeled properly. Edible, orally consumed or suppository products should be child-resistant throughout the life of the product.

Many cultivators/producers wish that the laws would eventually return to the CR exit bag requirement because CR packaging can become very expensive (per-unit and in shipping costs) with the small-volume orders. The uniqueness of closures also adds to the difficulty because for certain products, it’s tough to strike a balance between creative shelf appeal and child-resistance.

In Colorado, some companies dropped products from their lines once regulations went into effect because they could not afford CR packaging for the entire line.

Jaime Lewis, a cannabis industry veteran and founder and managing partner at Coldwater Consulting, advised that producers opt for smaller volume packaging orders.

While these are more expensive per-unit, the laws change so often that she said it’s more prudent to order carefully and not carry too much packaging inventory. She joked that, unfortunately, she could probably wallpaper her entire house in the packaging she’s accumulated over the years after rule changes.

White labeling

New state regulations also basically eliminate white labeling because all partners that brand owners work with must be licensed.

A lot of licensed producers use branding from a legacy cultivator who was never licensed or from their own (separate) company which is unlicensed. These practices have generally been accepted as long regulators are aware.

If licensed operators cannot conduct business with an unlicensed person or entity, they cannot package or label “cannabis goods under a non-licensee’s brand or according to the specifications of a non-licensee.”

Some panelists and audience members suggested that the solution is either for the authorities to repeal this caveat or for authorities to create a separate form of license for miscellaneous purposes like marketing and branding (i.e. not a dispensary, producer or distributor).

Ready to comment?

As was mentioned above, regulators are only giving 15 days to comment. Note that comments on regulations for retailers, distributors, microbusinesses and testing labs must be made to the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC). Click here for comment links on all three authorities’ sites. (For white-labeling comments, choose the BCC.)

Musings from the show floor

  • One packaging and printing supplier, who serves the cannabis industry as well as CPGs, food and pharma brands, said that customers want custom printing, but don’t have the volume or the funds to do it.

  • One lab said they’re finding unexpected results in product testing, as some plastics are leaching into cannabis oils/liquid products.

  • There is a lot of frustration among cannabis producers who feel overly regulated compared to those who produce nicotine, tobacco and alcohol products. User accountability appears much higher for both (i.e. a liquor bottle is not required to be child-resistant once purchased).

New products

STO Responsible offers a sustainable, CR box in varying sizes with an additive that creates accelerated degradation. It is also delivered in a nested format for shipping efficiency. (More info on this package coming soon!)

grasshopper was showing its automated, compliant kiosks that allow customers to skip the line at dispensaries in California. The kiosks feature advanced touchscreens and quick service in a small footprint. The Grasshopper Locker, with either 17 or 35 cubbies with locked doors, is an option for customers that prefer to call ahead and have product ready for quick and easy pick-up once inside the dispensary. The Locker integrates with dispensary POS software.

Eco Packaging Solutions was showing its Tin Canna, a 100% recyclable CR metal tin.

Disposal services were also exhibiting, including MediWaste, which disposes of regulated medical waste and cannabis and offers tracking services. Traceability in this field is important, both for supply chain security and for tracking how much product is ending up as waste.

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