Hannah Izer   |   March 22, 2022

Cannabis Packaging Designed for Safety

Compliant packaging means meeting specific safety goals, but are single-use plastics the only way?
Freelance writer with a specialization in the cannabis industry including strains, products, technology, education, and everything else connecting to the green plant. Her work has been featured in Thrillist.

Creating unique, eye-catching packaging for cannabis products requires knowledge of state regulations and a set of skills to design packaging for safety practices. Laws and regulations for each state can vary. However, while the rules may differ from state to state, it stands to reason that suppliers should keep cannabis out of children's hands.

During this emerging phase within this industry, consumer confidence in manufacturers, both in the products and the company itself, will be essential.

Why Safety in Cannabis Packaging Matters

Many of the earliest cannabis packaging laws treated cannabis just like any other prescription drug. Most medical dispensaries continue to use the bland cylindrical pill bottles favored by pharmacies. These pill bottles came from the 1970 Poison Prevention Packaging Act and successfully reduced the number of children who suffered drug-related accidents.

However, most of these bottles do not serve cannabis well because the containers are typically clear in color. Because of this, several states adopted regulations having dispensaries put cannabis purchases in opaque, child-resistant pouches or bags. Unfortunately, this led to another problem - consumers tend to remove their cannabis purchases from child-resistant packaging and place them in more accessible locations.

Manufacturers are rethinking their strategies for maintaining package compliances. Some companies may treat these regulations as unwanted costs, but others are re-aligning their packaging processes to offer attractive and safe containers that meet these strict regulatory needs.

Packaging Regulations & Good Practices

As mentioned, regulations vary from state to state. Yet, there are many laws present in most legalized states, Including child resistance, opacity, and the use of language and imagery in labeling.

Product packaging is tested for child safety (e.g., ASTM Certification). These tests involve having kids of varying ages attempt to open the packaging. Then, the researcher notes how hard it was to open the products.

Opacity laws are a few requirements for almost universal marijuana packaging. Opaque packaging means that the products inside are not yet visible from the outside of the package. This requirement ensures that the products do not call attention from children to open the packaging and access the cannabis. With the laws requiring warning labels, the opaque packaging ensures that children stay away from the product.

The way cannabis products are labeled affects how customers see and perceive them. The enticement is also addressed in most states regarding what companies can print on their products. Examples include toys, “candy,” and colorful labels.

What Types of Packaging Options are Available?

Jars and Vials

The first few things that come to mind when thinking of marijuana packaging include Joint Tubes, Pop-Top, Bottles, and glass jars.

Pop Tops create “popping” sounds when they are opened. They have been a staple in the industry for years and will likely stick around. The Pop Top category includes the plastic tubes that pre-rolls are vape cartridges come in. What makes a pop-top child safe is the amount of time it would take a child to attempt to open it. A golden rule across the U.S. and Canada is to ensure that a child under five years old cannot easily open a cannabis container.

Push & Turn Vitals were adopted from the medical community and became popular due to their familiarity. However, when the opacity laws were put in place, the bottles took on a new look. They have since grown into their niche style for cannabis retailers.

Glass jars have been around forever. A simple "press and turn" function is that of the Push & Turn bottles. There is a glass option for any product. While they are more sustainable than plastic, they are more expensive. Therefore, they have not been used to replace plastic products.

Mylar Bags

Smell-Proof bags are another popular option that has been in use by cannabis companies since the start of the industry boom. Grow Cargo carries mylar bags that are most often used for flower and edibles. In addition, many companies have switched to bags with the ability to customize since it allows them to tell the brand story with more text surface space. This will enable companies to differentiate their products better than a small sticker on a bottle.

Custom bags also allow for larger quantities at a lower cost, reducing the plastic waste from packaging. In addition, many companies will get Child-Resistant Exit Bags to put non-CR containers inside to remain compliant.

Each state can implement its own packaging regulations for cannabis sales. In the state of Illinois, “Packaging of any product containing cannabis shall be child-resistant and light-resistant consistent with current standards, including the Consumer Product Safety Commission standards referenced by the Poison Prevention Act.”

In Nevada, “Any product containing marijuana must be packaged in child-resistant packaging in accordance with 16 C.F.R. § 1700 or the standards specified in subsection 2 or 3.”

Eliminating Single-Use Plastics Altogether

Just as straws and plastic bags have become an environmental nuisance, single-use plastics in the cannabis industry are gaining similar negative attention. Child-safe containers account for 1.4 billion pounds of trash annually, with 91% of prescription bottles ending up as environmental waste. However, one company, born out of necessity in the cannabis industry, is hoping to expand its operation to provide a viable solution, not just for cannabis but other products.

CANNILOQ, a producer of aesthetically pleasing containers for cannabis consumers, has recently announced a new product line that could reduce or eliminate much of the packaging waste created by cannabis plastics. MEDILOQ is a patent-pending robotic packaging system that washes, sterilizes, and tests the functionality of every refillable container when it is returned.

  1. MEDILOQ supplies the patented containers and equipment.
  2. Manufacturers fill and distribute their products in child-safe containers.
  3. Consumers return the containers to a kiosk.
  4. A depot washes, sterilizes, and tests the containers before returning them to the manufacturer.

Dan Estoque, Founder of CANNILOQ, told Cannabis Tech, “We’ve found the cannabis family is much more receptor to progressive ideas. Cannabis entrepreneurs have a heartfelt desire to leave the planet a better place.”

He continued, “[The industry] hasn’t been in business for decades, so the timing is perfect for making meaningful changes and solving some of the problems inherited by other industries."

So, while big-name businesses begin to look toward the cannabis industry for opportunities, Estoque proves that a few young cannabis companies are willing to shake up the status quo to pursue more noble causes. Estoque urges the industry to take action to correct course now and become part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

 

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