Cannabis packaging has different standards to adhere to; on one end are the stringent child safety regulations to be adhered to. On the other hand, cannabis packaging has to be eco-friendly so as not to lose favor in the sight of the powers that be. The two principles place it between the rock and the hard place.
Legal cannabis has an age limit which varies from 18-21 years depending on the state. This means that minors are forbidden from consuming all sorts of cannabis-based products; children and teenagers as well. There are very good reasons why this is critical. The impact of cannabis on the developing brain has been a hot button issue, with some claiming that damage to the developing brain is irreversible. Also, people who begin consuming cannabis before adulthood are more likely to become dependent on the drug in later life. Among other reasons, the government has set strict regulations to keep cannabis out of the reach of minors.
Child- Resistant Cannabis Packaging Regulations
To protect children, the following regulations have been put in place:
- Cannabis packaging must be opaque. This means that you should not be able to see the contents in the packaging through the packaging material.
- The package must not be attractive to children. This means that the use of attractive pictures such as cartoons or flashy colors is not allowed on the packaging.
- Use of child-resistant locking mechanisms such as is used for medicines. This means that packages or bottles should have a locking mechanism that cannot be opened by children. The package should be lockable even after it has been opened.
Child-Friendly Packaging creates Unnecessary Waste
The above regulations have increased the cost of packaging materials for cannabis products. Cannabis businesses are further required to comply with other regulations such as labeling and marking. Note that regulations on cannabis packaging are among the strictest as compared to other products in the market. At the end of the day, lots of waste is generated through cannabis packaging. When a company is churning out volumes of products, the impact on the environment is cause for concern.
Eco-Friendly Cannabis Packaging
California is at the center of the waste generation quagmire, having legalized both medicinal and recreational cannabis. They have rigorous child-resistant packaging requirements that cannabis businesses have to adhere to. As a result, the cannabis industry in California keeps churning out an avalanche of environmental hazards each year. This is very unfortunate, considering that cannabis is a green movement.
According to recent estimates, the cannabis industry is producing an equivalent of 1 billion plastic wastes each year, which is dumped into the environment. Should this go on for another decade, the potential gains of cannabis legalization may be undone by the environmental harm that will have been created.
A few forward-thinking companies have stepped up to address the issue. Sana Packaging which creates eco-friendly packaging from hemp is keen on nipping this problem in the bud. According to Zeke Shortes, owner of a cannabis dispensary, packaging material made from softwood is a better alternative. Kraft paper pouches that are beige are recyclable so it may help to reduce the amount of waste being generated by the industry. The problem is that cannabis dispensaries have to use complete packages even for single unit purchases, just to ensure that they meet the regulatory requirements. However, they are not biodegradable because they are lines with layers of plastic. In his words, Zeke says:
“I think it’s very wasteful this industry, with all the requirements on single-use. There have to be better ways to do it. … It would be great if [the DOH] had someone that was spending a little time on something like the packaging so they could come out with a better ruling on that and allow us to reuse packaging in some way.” This is as told to SFR.
CannaCraft, being among the largest cannabis companies, has been keen to comply with all regulatory requirements on child-friendly packaging. But seeing the environmental impact of this has created, they have taken a step back to rethink their environmental strategy.
The company noticed that they were largely contributing to California’s waste problem. Among their top-selling products is the vape pen. And the general demand for vape pens in the market is soaring daily. Repackaging vape pens to meet regulatory guidelines while still conserving the environment has posed a serious challenge. Most vape pens are single-use and come in small portable sizes. With more people switching to vape pens, the problem being created is similar to the dilemma of plastic bags and plastic beverage bottles. It’s a convenience that comes at a very huge cost to the environment.
CannaCraft is working day and night to find a tenable solution to this problem. However, the strict regulations in the industry remain a hindrance. In 2018, other forward-thinking companies hit a snag when news regulations forced them to discontinue a vape pen recycling program meant to abate this wastage.
CannaCraft produces about 2 million vape cartridges each year. Initially, these cartridges were packed in plastic child-resistant tubes that were child-friendly. The company is currently working on sealable vape cartridges that use less plastic but are still child-friendly. Should this be a success, the company will have succeeded in pushing down the number of plastics being pushed into the environment each year.
The Way Forward
That cannabis waste is a disaster-in-waiting is not disputable. Fortunately, the cannabis industry has noticed and they are taking responsibility to tackle the issue. It is not a simple problem, especially with the strict packaging regulations that surround them.
It is encouraging to see cannabis companies keep the spirit of the green movement. We hope to see other cannabis companies pulling together to reduce the environmental damage before it’s too late. It would even be more uplifting to see the regulatory bodies give clear guidance on how this environmental risk can be abated.
1. Leafly: A State-by-State Guide to Cannabis Packaging and Labeling Laws. Retrieved from https://www.leafly.com/news/industry/a-state-by-state-guide-to-cannabis-packaging-and-labeling-laws
2. SF Reporter (2018): WeedWaste. Retrieved from https://www.sfreporter.com/news/2018/07/03/weed-waste/
3. Civilized Life (2019): The Unique Challenges to Recycling Vapes in the Cannabis Industry. Retrieved from https://www.civilized.life/articles/the-challenges-of-recycling-vapes-in-the-cannabis-industry/