Labeling and packaging requirements impact all the players as cannabis products travel up the supply chain. Cannabis operators in California have to comply with a number of packaging and labeling laws that the government has established to protect consumers.
While some states have been fine with exit packaging only, California requires individual items for retail sale to be tamper-evident and re-sealable if containing multiple packages. However, with the adoption of permanent regulations in January 2019, manufacturers are off the hook until 2020 for providing child resistant packaging (“CRP”). Until then, retailers will bear the burden of CRP through the continued use of CRP exit packaging. Once CRP for manufacturers is enforced, they will need to comply with a litany of requirements, including the Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970 Regulations.
In this guide we dive into general packaging requirements, labeling requirements for different license types, and general packaging requirements. After reading it you will know what the labeling requirements are that pertain to you and start your journey towards compliant packaging. Bookmark this page if you would like to revisit it as we will be updating it from time to time.
PLEASE NOTE: 'Child-resistant' is an actual certification and not a general difficulty assessment.
d. PROP 65
The following are general guidelines to adhere to for packaging and applies to any license type (and apply till January 1, 2020):
After January 1, 2020
Beginning January 1, 2020, all packages shall meet the aforementioned requirements and shall also meet the following requirements:
Notwithstanding the above, immature plants and seeds shall not be required to be packaged in child-resistant, tamper-evident, and resealable packaging.
The following are requirements for different cannabis license types that companies may hold:
Manufacturers have the most stringent cannabis labeling requirements of all license types. These requirements are for both manufacturers (Type 6, 7) and Type Ps that label, package, re-label, and re-package cannabis products, as well as some for Type N:
It should be written in English and the wording is “unobstructed and conspicuous” so that it can be “read by the consumer.” It should also be placed on the outside of the package / container (whereas the supplemental and “side effects” information can go on the inside of the packaging through inserts). There are two panel labeling requirements that we describe below. The primary panel is the part of the label consumers will see at retail locations. The informational panel may be attached anywhere else on the package.
The primary label must contain the following is 6-point font or larger and in relation to the size of the primary panel and container/package:
For edibles, the following requirements also apply:
The following must be in no less than 6 point font as well, in relation to the size of the primary panel and container/package, with limited exceptions depending on how much room you have with the label):
For edibles, the following also apply:
The primary panel labeling information and the government warning statement have to be on the package itself. If the packaging is is too small to fit all of the informational labeling, you can use a supplemental label for those additional requirements.
Examples of supplemental labels include a paper inserted into the packaging, a hang tag or a peel-back label.
If product container is separable from outer-most packaging
Manufacturers need to ensure that, if a product container is separate from the outer packaging, such as a container placed inside of a box, the product container must include the following:
This section details cannabis labeling requirements for cultivators and processors. Cultivators can grow and process their own flower. Processors only trim, dry, cure, grade, package, and/or label flower or non-manufactured cannabis: they don’t grow anything.
The following are regulations for cultivators and processors when packaging cannabis flower (or cannabis pre-rolls without any infusions) for retail sale (including the same font, conspicuous placement, and English language requirements as manufacturers):
Additionally, a flower label may specify the county of origin only if 100% of the cannabis or non-manufactured cannabis product contained in the package was produced within the designated county, as defined by finite political boundaries. For more on cannabis appellations in California, see here.
Please note that Pre-rolls that only contain flower must follow all packaging and labeling standards outlined in the California Business and Professions Code. Pre-rolls that contain both flower and concentrates ("infused pre-rolls") must meet all packaging and labeling required of manufactured products (listed above), as outlined in the MCSB regulations for cannabis manufacturers.
This section details labeling responsibilities for distributors. Type 11-Distributors are responsible for quality assurance of the packaging and labeling, and ensuring that they are compliant with state regulations.
According to these regulations, distributors are the final check of packaging before products reach retail shelves. They have to ascertain that the labeling and packaging meets state’s requirements (as described earlier) and is accurate. In many cases distributors also package themselves, such as when they purchase flower, and have to abide by the requirements below.
Lastly, distributors have to carry out a final commercial readiness / compliance test, and these test results may conflict with the non-compliance test the manufacturer may have done on their own, prior to giving custody or title to the distributor. In this case, distributors may need to relabel packages if the testing results don’t match what’s on the labels.
According to the regulations, a distributor shall ensure a label with the following information is physically attached to each batch container:
Please note that there are max batch sizes for the different cannabis product categories (i.e. 50 lbs for flower etc.) so you will want to ensure that your stored batch(es) don’t exceed those amounts. The rest of the points are fairly standard, except for #3 which calls for unique identifiers which will probably be arbitrarily numbered starting from Batch 1, until the track and trace system is implemented.
Lastly, you have the freedom to specify the unit of measure you wish to use. As per #3, only use the state and/or local track and trace generated UIDs (do not concoct your own).
This applies to products manufactured starting August, 2018
California’s Proposition 65, a voter initiative passed in 1986, created the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (Health & Safety Code § 25249.5 et seq.), which requires that the seller of a product that contains chemical(s) known by the State of California to cause cancer or reproductive harm must provide a warning to anyone who buys the product, unless there is already a clear and sufficient warning printed on the label or package.
Warnings must also be given if there is a possibility of environmental exposure to a chemical on the list of substances that cause cancer or reproductive harm. Penalties for violating Proposition 65’s warning requirement can be as high as $2,500 per day.
Currently cannabis companies are attaching a warning that looks something like:
WARNING: This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer.
The current environmental exposure warning for a carcinogen must include the following language:
“WARNING: This area contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer.”
The required warnings for chemicals known to cause reproductive harm are identical, except the word “cancer” is replaced with “birth defects or other reproductive harm.”
In the near future this warning statement will no longer suffice. Instead, unless you meet one of the few exceptions (one of which is that your product was manufactured prior to August 30, 2018 and contains the September 2008 safe harbor warnings), you’ll need to follow the new regulations, which call for identifying at least one triggering chemical depending on the type of harm caused by that chemical.
These new regulations are designed to provide consumers with more specific notice of the chemicals contained in products sold within the state. Between now and August 30, 2018, businesses can choose to continue following the existing regulations or to begin following the new regulations immediately. (For a side-by-side comparison of the current and new reasonable warning regulations, check out this link.
The new exposure warning messages must include the following:
Additionally, on-product warnings for products containing a known cancer-causing agent require the symbol required in §25603(a) (1), the word “WARNING” in bold capital letters, and the following words: “Cancer – www.P65Warnings.ca.gov.” The name of the listed chemical is not required to be printed on a product warning label.
The key differences between the current and the new “clear and reasonable” warning regulations are:
There are some exceptions to this rule. Businesses with 9 or less employees are exempt from this requirement. Also, Prop. 65 includes only marijuana smoke and myrcene on its list of cancer-causing substances, thus this rule may not apply to edible or topical marijuana products that do not contain myrcene, granted they do not contain any other chemical on the Prop. 65 list, (pesticides etc.). Note, however, that a warning still may be needed for products that can be vaporized, since certain chemicals used in vapor products may be included on this list.
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