Marijuana Packaging: Common Requirements & Good Practices for Cannabis Packaging
Standard Regulations & Good Practices
As mentioned above, regulations vary from place to place. Yet, there are many laws that are present in most legalized states. These include child-resistance, opacity, and the use of language and imagery in labeling.
The first part is self-explanatory, and means that the packaging products are tested for child safety (e.g. ASTM Certification). These standardized tests involve having kids of varying ages attempt to open the packaging. The researcher makes notes of how hard it was to open and what means they used, and the product gets a score on how well it performed. If the child smashed the product against the floor to open it, that's noted and counted towards opening it.
What most people don’t realize is that the ASTM certification also includes the ability of elderly patients to open the products. In other words, the tests are as crucial in maintaining child-safety as they are pivotal in ensuring accessibility to seniors.
Opaque packaging means that the products inside aren’t “viewable”. This ensures that the products aren’t enticing kids to open up the packaging to access the marijuana. Together with laws requiring warning labels, the opaque packaging further ensures that children stay away from your bud. Opacity laws are one of the few requirements for marijuana packaging that is almost universal. So even if it’s not required in your state right now, it’s definitely worth preparing for that being a need.
Labeling affects how the products are seen and perceived by customers. The enticement is also what is addressed in most states when it comes to what companies are able to print on their products. Examples of this includes imagery such as toys, use of words like “candy”, and bright/colorful labels. This, of course, impacts the ability of companies to differentiate their products. But, it has also led to some very creative branding with minimalist color/imagery.
Example of ASTM Certification Label for Child-Resistant Products
So, what types of packaging options do we have?
This is where it gets interesting. Because cannabis has been legal for some years now, the packaging industry has matured a long way from white-label plastic- and glass jars. Here are the basics:
Vials and Jars
Pop Tops, named for the “popping” sound they make when opened, have been a staple in the industry for years (and will likely continue to be so). The Pop Top category also includes "Doob Tubes", which are the plastic tubes that pre-rolls and vape cartridges come in.
Push & Turn Vials were adopted from the medical community, and became popular due to their familiarity. In the beginning they came as the classic orange we all know, which was phased out in favor of a green version. When the opacity laws were put in place the bottles took on a new look, and have since grown into its own niche style for cannabis retailers. We trust these to be child-resistant after years of getting prescriptions filled in them, and they will remain a fixture in the industry as well.
Glass jars have been around forever and they use the same "press and turn" system that the plastic Push & Turn bottles do. Glass jars work for a plethora of products, so whether you sell flower, concentrates, or pain relief creams, there is a glass option out there for you. While glass jars are a more sustainable option for packaging, they are more expensive. Since they are not reusable in a retail setting (yet), they have not been adopted as a means to replace the plastic products.
Smell-Proof Dispensary Bags are another popular option that have been in use by cannabis companies since the start of the boom. Mylar bags are most often used for flower and for edibles, sporting some of the best labeling options on the market. With the ability to customize, many companies have switched to bags since it allows them to tell the brand “story” better. The whole surface is modifiable to communicate with the customer in a way you can't with bottles. This allows companies to differentiate their products better than a 2x3 sticker on a plastic bottle.
Custom bags also allow for bigger quantities at a lower cost, reducing the plastic waste from packaging (4x 30 dram pop tops vs. 1x 1oz bag). Many companies will get Child-Resistant Exit Bags to put non-CR containers inside so they can remain compliant. Thankfully this is a receding practice as producers move towards more sustainable practices.
Dropper Bottles (Boston Rounds)
Boston Round Dropper Bottles are another option adopted from the medical industry. They are increasing in popularity, especially with the growth of CBD as a form of relief. They can be child resistant in many ways, which allows companies to stay compliant while customizing the look/feel of their product. The most popular safety option is a regular push & turn system in the cap itself, which requires a certain amount of power to open it.
Another style preferred by producers that service an older clientele is to use shrink-wrap labels over top of non-CR pipettes. This way the only difficult part to open is a piece of plastic, letting you access the product more easily afterwards.
1000mg Piña Colada CBD Tincture from Safer CBD in 30ml Amber Dropper Bottle with Black Child-Resistant Pipette
Last, and possibly most interesting, is the sustainable options that are popping up around the country. While not too accessible yet, there are many new forms of packaging getting released to help reduce our carbon footprint. This means that the look and feel of our marijuana-purchasing experience is about to change forever.
Cardboard tubes and boxes are one such form of packaging taking over as a replacement for plastic containers. Like their plastic counterparts there are many ways to ensure child-safety with these paper products. Most of them rely on some sort of “pop lock” system with a tab that’s pushed in to release the inside of the packaging. While most versions aren't smell proof, they do offer us a way to brand our products on a surface that is recyclable.
Besides the paper versions of packaging, we are also seeing plastics made from hemp pellets. This is a new and exciting source for the unsustainable oil products we consume.
In the end, it’s just a plastic bottle. Right?
This is a common misconception that minimizes the importance of ensuring the safety of your customers. How you choose to pack your cannabis is crucial for how consumers perceive your company. It also impacts a company's longevity in the market, so we hope this piece will help companies make smarter packaging choices in the future.