The Unique Struggles to Packaging Cannabis Products

  • How strict regulations, absurd oversight, and unfair treatment plagues an industry hobbled by rules made specifically for cannabis products.

For every new business that pops up in the United States, there are always unforeseen difficulties and challenges. Typically, government oversight makes it more difficult to get a business started while remaining up to code. However, this isn’t a reason to remove oversight and regulations, they’re important and keep unscrupulous business people from opening potentially harmful businesses. Unfortunately for the cannabis industry, business leaders face stiff regulations, gross oversight, and unfair treatment. Sadly, this extends into packaging cannabis products.

Unfair Marijuana Packaging Regulations Not Present in Similar Industries

When discussing the fairness of cannabis regulations, it’s important to understand that, fundamentally, cannabis products are no different from goods that contain alcohol or caffeine. Both are incredibly powerful drugs; the former being incredibly dangerous and the latter being the most widely used psychoactive drug in the United States.

From that perspective, it’s easy to see why the regulations present in the marijuana industry are overly strict, grossly intrusive, and make it harder for cannabis companies to grow their business.

Consider the rules regarding advertising. The alcohol industry is permitted to glamorize and glorify their products during SuperBowl commercials; cannabis businesses have difficulty advertising on social media.

Furthermore, consider that you’ll see Starbucks (a company pushing a psychoactive compound) on every corner in big cities. Their windows are wide and open; they display all the happy people pleasantly consuming their liquid drugs while working or reading a book.

For cannabis dispensaries, brick-and-mortar locations are banned from displaying products or allowing the public to view the interior.

The advertising rules are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to unfair cannabis business regulations. The packaging regulations for marijuana companies are downright draconian. Consider, for example, that marijuana packages are subject to a plethora of rules that aren’t found in the alcohol or caffeine industries.

Strict Regulations in Marijuana Packaging

As mentioned, there are a plethora of regulations present in marijuana packaging that isn’t found in similar industries. Here are just a few of those regulations:

  • Mandated ‘Universal Symbols’
  • Tamper-proof packaging
  • Plain packaging laws
  • Dishonest health claims
  • Child-proof resistance
  • And more

Let’s look at each of these one-by-one.

Mandated Universal Symbols

Packages with cannabis are often required to carry a symbol that identifies it as a dangerous product. In California, for example, the symbol is a frightening display of a cannabis leaf with an exclamation point.

Immediately, the image is designed to convey the dangerous aspects of cannabis. However, since cannabis isn’t as harmful as alcohol nor as addictive as caffeine, the Universal Symbol represents an unfair disadvantage to cannabis companies.

To clarify, a 2016 study published in Psychopharmacology found that alcohol increased aggressive behaviors while cannabis inherently decreases them, even after exposure to aggressive situations. However, warning labels on alcohol never indicate this effect.

Furthermore, the warning labels on alcohol are often not identified with a symbol conveying malevolence, but rather with tame language designed to suggest the possibility of toxicity.

Moreover, despite the heavy withdrawals that people face when quitting caffeine use, according to 2013 research published in the Journal of Caffeine Research, caffeine comes with zero warning labels about its addictive properties.

Tamper-proof Packaging and Child-proof Resistance

Cans of beer are no more difficult to open than a can of soda. A pack of cigarettes is held together only by a thin layer of cellophane. Roasted and ground coffee beans are readily available in packages sealed by little more than a twist-off cap.

When it comes to marijuana packaging, however, there is far more necessary. For example, products with cannabis are often required to house tamper-proof packaging. Combined with the Universal Symbol, tamper-proof packaging and child-proof resistance technology add one more layer to the absurd oversight of cannabis products.

Plain Packaging Laws

Plain packaging laws stem from the same vein as child-proof packaging laws. It’s understandable that regulators don’t want cannabis products to be accidentally ingested by children. That’s why there are laws that require cannabis-infused products, such as edibles, to come in opaque packaging.

The goal is to keep children from mistakenly consuming a food product infused with cannabis. However, it should be noted that alcohol labels are allowed to show a variety of images, including cartoon-like characters.

Dishonest Health Claims

Cannabis is not a toy.

That being said, the health claims being forced onto their labels go beyond what’s necessary. Unfortunately, there is still a large swath of misinformation available concerning the safety and side-effects of cannabis. Sadly, those claims make it onto marijuana packages.

Of course, the politicians setting the regulations are simply being as conservative as possible in their approach, but the unintended consequence is the continued spread of misinformation.

Unfair Treatment Plagues the Cannabis Industry

Of course, there are plenty of interior hurdles that cannabis companies must clear to remain compliant with their packaging, however, those aren’t the only challenges the industry faces.

For example, according to the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, cannabis remains a Schedule I drug. As a result, it’s illegality stifles important research. For years, The University of Mississippi was the only entity in the United States to thoroughly research cannabis. Furthermore, it’s research was strictly controlled by a government that had no interest in cannabis becoming mainstream.

Aside from the difficulty found in researching cannabis, it’s also nearly impossible to do banking in the cannabis industry. Banks have long been wary of facing the backlash from the federal government for assisting cannabis businesses.

So, cannabis businesses face steep hurdles in remaining compliant with their packaging materials, research institutes have difficulty finding funding from the government, and banks are cautious about working with them. From every angle, the cannabis industry has faced undue scrutiny. While regulations are important for any industry, the level of oversight in the cannabis industry—when compared to the coffee, alcohol, and cigarette industries—is outrageous and incredibly unique. Thankfully, it’s only slowed the industry’s growth, not prevented it from growing. 

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