Pot-Industry Group Sets New Standards for Packaging

Childproof bottles at L'Eagle dispensary.EXPAND
Childproof bottles at L'Eagle dispensary.
Kate McKee Simmons
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A national cannabis trade organization with strong ties to Denver has proposed new packaging standards for its members. Those standards, which are similar to the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division's packaging regulations, will be the first of many to be adopted by members of the National Association of Cannabis Businesses, according to an announcement from the organization.

Launched in 2017, the NACB currently has twenty members throughout the country; a handful are prominent, Colorado-based cannabis businesses. NACB members include Dixie Elixirs, Love's Oven, Ebbu, Local Product of Colorado and several pot enterprises in Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois, among other states. With a goal of becoming the main self-regulatory organization (SRO) for licensed cannabis businesses, the NACB hopes its new packaging standard will demonstrate to the public, banks and regulators that it is acting in good faith.

Weeks after United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions opened the door for more federal enforcement on state-legalized cannabis industries, NACB president Andrew Kline says he realized that being proactive was necessary to help avoid any potential interference from regulators and law enforcement.

"The NACB believes that self-regulation is the most effective course of action for our members to control their own destiny in the face of regulators' growing need to intervene,” explains Kline, a former federal prosecutor. “The creation and adoption of national, voluntary standards that are aligned with regulators' priorities takes input from government, NACB members and subject-matter experts into careful consideration. Through this process, the SRO identified product packaging and labeling as our first priority because it impacts so many issues related to health and safety.”

The proposed standards are posted on the NACB website for public review and comment until Wednesday, February 21. They are:

  • Child-resistant packaging guidelines for all cannabis products
  • Consistent labeling that identifies the cannabis product's origin, cultivator and processor
  • Inclusion of warning statements regarding health risks associated with cannabis consumption, such as advising consumers not to drive or operate heavy machinery while using the product, and that the intoxicating effects of the product may be delayed after consumption
  • Avoiding packaging and labeling that appeal to minors
  • Requirements and methods for listing all ingredients present in the product
  • Inclusion of major food allergen warnings and information on cannabis edibles based upon U.S. Food & Drug Administration guidelines
  • Guidelines on how to address health and medical claims for cannabis products

Childproof packaging, standardized labeling that shows product origins and ingredients, and health-warning statements are already required for cannabis products in Colorado; manufacturers are also required to avoid edible shapes and packaging that appeals to minors. While the NACB declined to discuss how its proposed regulations compare with Colorado's requirements, an organization official does say that other states could use some improvement.

"We are creating national standards that address the federal government’s public view that most states’ laws are insufficient to protect consumers," says NACB spokeswoman Karen Blondell. "That means that in some cases, our standards will be more rigorous than a state's regulations."

Colorado updated its packaging and labeling requirements for cannabis after lengthy MED stakeholder meetings in September and October of last year; they went into effect January 1, 2018. The new rules were made in collaboration with regulatory agencies in Oregon and Washington and now better reflect Federal Drug Administration standards, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue.

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