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Weed Packaging: How to Stay Compliant with State Laws

There is a lot that goes into your favorite product’s packaging. From nutrition labels for food to allergy warnings and even hazard notices, labels and packages do a lot of heavy lifting. The package and its label have the important job of ensuring the customer knows which product they are getting, its included parts or […]

Weed Packaging How to Stay Compliant with State Laws

There is a lot that goes into your favorite product’s packaging. From nutrition labels for food to allergy warnings and even hazard notices, labels and packages do a lot of heavy lifting.

The package and its label have the important job of ensuring the customer knows which product they are getting, its included parts or ingredients, the brand producing the product, and more. The packaging online retailers and cannabis sellers, in general, have to create is no exception.

In fact, creating weed packaging may be the most challenging task many producers face. Not only does the package need to be visually appealing, but it also has to be compliant with the laws for every state that it sells and ships to.

With 34 states having legalized weed in some form, there are a lot of laws for producers to keep track of and a lot of adjustments to make to packaging. But, it’s worth it to ensure your products are available to all the consumers who want or need them.

What’s in a Label and a Package?

From a marketing standpoint, the packaging your company uses is essential; it’s part of your company’s identity. A good package design will:

  • Clearly identify what type of product the package contains
  • Make it easy to recognize your brand
  • Help your product stand out from the crowd
  • Be easy to use
  • Be practical and re-usable (can the product be stored in it, or will additional products be needed?)

Your packaging design should also reflect your audience’s values. For example, if sustainability is important to your clientele, make sure your package minimizes waste. For those with an environmentally conscious client base, consider whether you can recycle your packaging, or it will need to be thrown away.

The Importance of Packaging Laws

Packaging also has more to do than just marketing your product: It also needs to notify consumers of important information as required by law.

Every state’s cannabis regulators have an important job: preventing marijuana products from being sold to minors and onto the black market. To accomplish this task, packaging laws are put into place.

Requirements such as child-proof containers and clear labels are two ways packaging laws help keep cannabis out of the wrong hands.

In addition to following state guidelines to regulate cannabis packaging, marijuana packaging also plays an important role in protecting the product.

Whether shipping weed and weed products directly to customers or to other retailers, ensuring the product remains in good condition and protecting its quality is essential. Producers will take into consideration the type of container that will best protect the integrity of their product, as well as the laws of the different states they ship to, when designing packaging.

Types of Cannabis Packaging Containers

Types of Cannabis Packaging Containers

Because cannabis packaging needs to protect the product’s quality, there are many different types of containers producers can choose from, such as:

  • Wood or glass jars can be used to package cannabis flowers. They must be air-tights and are usually opaque and child-resistant, but these unique materials can help a brand stand out.
  • Plastic containers for various edibles. Because things like gummies and chocolate can be appealing to children, it is especially important that companies use child-resistant packaging for these products.

Current State Cannabis Packaging Guidelines

Though each state has its own guidelines for what needs to be included on a cannabis package, there are some general commonalities. For example, pretty much every state requires packaging to be child-proof.

Below, we’ll dive into some of the current guidelines in each state where marijuana is legal. It is important to remember that this is not an exhaustive list, and additional regulations will need to be followed.

  • Alaska has disclaimer requirements for its cannabis packaging. It also requires product packaging to be opaque, resealable, and child-resistant.
  • Arizona requires products to be in child-resistant packaging.
  • California requires lots of information to be displayed, including various warnings and manufacturing information.
  • Colorado requires that the Universal THC Symbol be placed on the packaging and lists size requirements for text.
  • Connecticut requires child-resistant packaging as well as labels that include the producer’s information, expiration dates, and ingredient lists.
  • Delaware ensures that product information, including batch information, is listed on the packaging.
  • Hawaii has labeling requirements as well limits on the amount of THC-specific products, like capsules, can contain.
  • Illinois also requires packages to be opaque and child-resistant in addition to listing testing and expiration dates.
  • Maine has laws regarding the amount of marijuana that can be distributed per patient.
  • Maryland requires plain packaging that must include specific disclaimers.
  • Massachusetts says the packages cannot contain cartoons or images other than the company’s logo.
  • Michigan is a bit of an anomaly: It currently has no cannabis packaging laws in place (but that can always change).
  • Minnesota has a minimum package size to ensure a lack of appeal to children, in addition to various labeling requirements.  
  • Montana is also unique in that it does not currently have marijuana packaging regulations in place.
  • Nevada requires child-resistant packaging and minimum material thickness for containers that house marijuana-infused products in solid or liquid form.
  • New Hampshire leaves the labeling requirements up to alternative treatment centers that use medical marijuana.
  • New Jersey requires a statement that the product is for medical use by the patient and information on the plant’s profile, including the strength of the strain inside.
  • New Mexico requires warnings for use as well as instructions for use (among other things) to be included on its packaging and labels.
  • New York notes that packages should be tamper-proof, child-resistant, and include storage instructions.
  • Oregon states that packages cannot be attractive to minors, which means their design should not feature bright colors and cartoons.
  • Rhode Island requires a statement the product is for medical use and not resale, as well as strain information.
  • Vermont says packages must include specific disclaimer language as well as identify the strain the package contains.
  • Washington requires various warning labels and disclaimers are listed in addition to the business number of the licensed dispensary.
  • Washington, D.C., though not a state, also has its own labeling requirements. Its packages must include the name of the recommending physician as well as information about where the weed was cultivated.

It is important to note these are just a few of the many requirements states have that marijuana companies must adhere to. Though there are common requirements across most of the states, there are unique characteristics as well.

For example, most states require packages to be opaque or light-resistant in addition to child-resistant. Many also require that packaging not be designed to appeal to minors.

While nearly all states have disclaimer language and packaging information, the specific wording they want to be used and the information they want to be included will vary from state to state.

The Challenges of Designing Packaging for Each State

The Challenges of Designing Packaging for Each State

Designing packing for your company’s products can be challenging in everyday situations, and designing packaging for cannabis products is often even more challenging. There are many unique challenges cannabis companies face, including:

  • Space issues: It can be difficult to fit all disclaimers on packages, and some states have minimum font sizes they require as well.
  • Coloring and graphics: Because states do not want cannabis product containers to appeal to underage shoppers, many require plain designs. This may go against previously established branding at your company. The challenge is adapting your brand to fit these guidelines.
  • Rapid changes: State’s packaging requirements can change quickly and may or may not give companies advance warning or a grace period in which to update their packaging. Companies must keep on top of news and have the ability to change their packing designs quickly.
  • Keeping product fresh: Packaging not only needs to be compliant, but it needs to also keep the company’s cannabis products fresh. Not only will packaging design matter; the material used for packaging will matter, too.
  • Medical vs. recreational: Some states allow for recreational marijuana use in addition to medical marijuana use. Some only allow medical marijuana. You may need different packaging for each type of product, depending on the state’s regulations.

How to Stay Compliant With State’s Cannabis Packaging Laws

Keeping up with every state’s packaging requirements for marijuana can be a tough job. With its evolving nature and the fact that many states are starting to adopt marijuana use in various forms, companies may find it difficult to keep up with everything.

Thankfully, you don’t have to have to navigate these waters alone. There are people available to help.

When creating your packaging, you may want to work with a team of people to help you create it; these can be people you have in-house or hire an outside consulting company. Your team should include:

  • Product developers
  • Cannabis industry designers
  • Compliance consultants or your own legal counsel

Product developers will have in-depth knowledge about the product and share proven guidance about how best to package it in a way that will preserve it.

Designers with experience in the cannabis industry will likely be familiar with some of the various regulations they must follow. They will bring ideas on how best to incorporate everything you need in a package.

Finally, compliance consultants, or if you have a compliance officer of your own, will help ensure your packaging follows the guidelines set by each state. They will also play a role in helping you maintain your compliance, keeping an eye out for any changes in regulations.

What Happens if Your Cannabis Packing is Not Compliant?

What Happens if Your Cannabis Packing is Not Compliant?

Each state’s regulatory authorities keep a close eye on cannabis packaging to ensure regulations are being followed. If your packaging is found to be out of compliance, you may face various consequences, including:

  • Fines, which can be pretty substantial
  • Having your business license revoked

Both of these penalties will impact your ability to do business in a specific state, which can cost your company income. So, staying current on packaging requirements is essential for your cannabis business.

Beyond Cannabis Packaging

In addition to containers that products are sold in, companies can also create and sell branded accessories. These often don’t have to follow specific state guidelines and are a great way to get your brand out there and recognizable.

As you design your cannabis packaging, consider working with a company to help you design accessories as well. These can include:

  • Storage bags to house weed once it has been opened
  • Lighters that bear your logo, reminding people of your brand every time they go to light up
  • Branded rolling papers that feature your logo and brand name
  • Rolling trays, which smokers use to roll joints
  • Stickers that can be placed on ashtrays or added to various other things to promote your company

A Summary of Cannabis Packaging Regulations

The marijuana industry faces unique challenges when it comes to creating packaging for its product. Packaging needs to be on-brand and appealing while also taking care to ensure it follows specific guidelines each state sets forth.

Marijuana producers will need to decide which states they want to do business in (as not all allow recreational marijuana use; some only allow medicinal use), and then create packaging that is compliant in each individual state.

Though many states have some similar requirements for the packaging of marijuana products, they also all have their own unique requirements and specific disclaimer verbiage.

Keeping up with changing packaging laws can be challenging. Having a team in place to help you create your packaging and monitor each state’s unique requirements can help. You can bring a team in-house to do this or hire outside help to assist with this process. You’ll need to decide what works best for you and your company.

If your packaging is found to be out of compliance, there can be monetary consequences. But, by following state guidelines, you will be able to reach more customers with your product than just those in your particular state.