Six easy tips to avoid costly cannabis packaging mistakes
Compliant cannabis packaging can be beautiful and creative, but there things you can’t include on your products. This is a list of six things all companies should avoid when packaging marijuana.
Mistake #1: packaging that appeals to children
Having your product look like something that is sold to children is not only in bad taste, it’s illegal. Avoid graphics and brand/product names that resemble non-cannabis products that are typically marketed to minors. Avoid words that refer to products that are commonly associated with minors. Examples include imitating well-known cereal brands, candy, cookies, or popular toys. This also means you shouldn’t use images of children on your packaging.
There are a number of more subjective things to consider under “appealing to children”. For example, cartoons. Most states have regulations restricting the use of cartoons on labels for marijuana products. The definition of cartoon varies from state to state. Example, CA allows images of animals with human characteristics (eg a koala with sunglasses). Washington and Oregon specifically forbid animals with human characteristics. If you want to have cute images on your packaging, it’s best that you reach out to your regulatory bodies and ask them. But be sure to give them a few weeks to get back to you.
We recently read an upsetting news article about children accidentally ingesting 400MG of THC in what we can only assume were illegal edibles imitating “nerd ropes” (incidentally, 400mg is the amount Harborside founder Steve DeAngelo likes to pop mid day, and is 100 times the amount I would like to ingest).
Most states have restrictions against imitating candy, or selling your product as candy. It’s in everybody’s best interest to make sure kids are not attracted to these products.
Mistake #2: assuming a copyright or trademark will automatically provide protection
Since cannabis is illegal under the federal government and copyrights are upheld by the US copyright office, claiming a copyright or trademark is shaky ground. Talk with an attorney before assuming you will get protection by using these marks. There are ways you can get state level protection, but federal protection on matters that touch the plant are complicated. Talk with an IP or cannabis attorney.
Mistake #3: making health claims
Health claims describe the relationship between your product and a reduced risk of a disease or health related condition. A statement claiming that the product or an ingredient in the product can cure, mitigate or treat any disease or health related condition can not be made or implied. Most states have regulations that require any health claims on a product to be supported by:
the totality of publicly available scientific evidence, including evidence from well-designed studies conducted in a manner which is consistent with generally recognized scientific procedures and principals, and for which there is significant scientific agreement, among experts qualified by scientific training and experience to evaluate such claims.
In late 2019, the FDA issued a number of warning letters to CBD companies for marketing their products as drugs. Even if you wholeheartedly believe that your product can cure an ailment, the state won’t agree. Don’t make health claims on your product or in your marketing materials, even against covid-19.
Mistake #4: calling your product “organic”
Labeling a product as “organic” means it has been certified by the USDA as organic. While cannabis is illegal within the federal government it’s not possible for the USDA to certify a cannabis product as organic. You may list organic ingredients, but you can not use the word organic on the principal display panel (front of the package), or use the organic seal anywhere on the package.
Mistake #5: wasteful oversized packaging
I think it’s fair to say that most cannabis producers care about the environment. Pursuing a sustainable packaging approach is a natural extension of our respect for the plant.
Yet a tension exists between sustainability and the need to produce compliant packaging that fulfills our branding needs. In an effort to pack a marketing “punch”, and to meet child resistance and regulatory language requirements, we see some brands gravitating towards oversized or multilayered packaging.
Having overly large packaging is an issue for your retailers and consumers. It takes up too much room in storage (and on shelf) at dispensaries, which means the retailers can’t keep as much of your product on hand. The end consumer doesn’t like opening a large box only to unwrap a small container of concentrate. Or get something big enough to hold a full ounce of flower when they’ve only purchased an eighth. Or remove and discard two layers of packaging before they get to the product.
It’s wasteful and consumers can feel a bit of bait and switch.
Mistake #6: Forgetting your customer when designing child-resistant packaging
We have to have child-resistant (CR) packaging. It’s the law, and it’s common sense to protect minors. However many CR mechanisms are confusing and/or frustrating to adults as well.
Debby Goldsberry from Magnolia Dispensary in Oakland, CA described to us that it is common for seniors to return to the dispensary in the days following their purchase to ask a budtender for help opening the product. This results when the opening requires strength or cordination they don’t posses, or uses a novel mechanism that isn’t intuitive.
If your product is likely to be used medicinally, it’s also likely to be used by people with problems with their hands, vision problems or motion control problems. Being able to work CR packaging and/or read the instructions for using the packaging can be an avoidable hurdle. Be sure to approach your packaging in relation to your audience.
With this long list of things to avoid, it may feel challenging to design creative, compelling and compliant packaging. It’s tough, but that’s why companies like Inkbrite are here to help. Inkbrite is your compliant cannabis packaging partner. We bring our collective 50+ years of experience creating consumer products and packaging to the cannabis industry, with the following goal in mind: make the process simple and straightforward. Start today!
This article is for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. This article outlines Inkbrite’s internal policies and should not be interpreted as legal guidance. For legal counsel, please contact your attorney.
If you have comments or questions, please comment below. We love reader feedback.
If you need beautifully designed, compliant packaging for your cannabis products, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Is your existing packaging compliant? Inkbrite can tell you with a compliance review.
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