Source credit: MarijuanaSEO
As the cannabis industry continues to bloom, we’ve seen equal growth in the number of ‘canna-preneurs’ breaking into the market. As investors watch pot stocks soar, the cannabis is becoming more attractive for anyone with big bankroll and entrepreneurial spirit. For some, this may seem like the Wild West, but that is a mischaracterization. State governments are heavily involved in regulating the cannabis industry, and those companies who shirk their compliance responsibilities can be crushed with heavy fines. This presents cannabis companies with a difficult tight rope to walk: should they focus on compliance or on branding? With the right package and label supplier, however, this choice doesn’t have to be a duality – it’s possible to have your compliance and brand it too.
Common Threads in Compliance
There are several rules shared by most cannabis-legal states. These common threads serve as a foundation for building compliant packaging. Below is an overview of common regulations for packaging flower, topicals, and concentrates.
Common Rules for All Packages of Cannabis Products
All packages for cannabis products in most states must:
- Be tamper-evident
- Be resealable (if the package contains multiple uses)
- Have child-resistant features
- Not imitate products typically marketed to children
- Not appeal to children
- Not make any health claims
- Not use the word ‘organic’ in violation of law
- Appear opaque (if labeled as an edible)
Even if your state’s regulators do not currently require specific items from the above list, it still serves as a set of best practices. It’s always better to be overprepared, and, as the burgeoning industry has already witnessed, compliance regulations are capricious and subject to change at a moment’s notice.
State Regulations Are Subject to Change
Every business operates under a state-controlled agency, such as the Bureau of Cannabis Control in California or the Cannabis Control Commission in Massachusetts. These autonomous agencies have the authority to change local regulations at will. New rules are implemented quickly, and companies are expected to fall in line or pay the price.
Map courtesy of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
For example, California is in the process of changing its rules for child-resistant packaging. Per its current standards, cannabis companies can continue to meet child-resistant requirements with exit packaging until the end of the year. Beginning January 1, 2020, however, every cannabis package must contain child-resistant features before, and in addition to, exit packaging.
Special Rules for Cannabis Topicals and Concentrates
Other rules vary by state, such as font specifications (California requires 6-point font exactly, while Massachusetts gives more leniency with “any legible font”) and warning label guidance (California and Massachusetts have a state-mandated “Universal Symbol” alerting users of the presence of THC, while other states merely require any kind of written warning.) These two regulations are merely examples and by no means is this an exhaustive account of all differences between state compliance regulation. Failure to adhere to any state guidelines can result in a fine, and repeated violations can lead to suspension or revocation of licensure. Needless to say, compliance is serious business.
Branded Packaging in a Regulated Space
With so many rules and regulations already (and more on the way) how does the savvy “canna-preneur” stand out from the crowd? It’s not easy, but with a bit of planning and the help from a good cannabis packaging partner, it’s possible. Here are several tips for making your company stay compliant while showcasing your unique brand identity.
- Versatile Base Packaging
The laws may change, but your brand doesn’t have to. Choose neutral base assets to capture the spirit of your organization, but do not overcommit to the current state of compliance in your state. Stick to your logo, an on-brand base material and a color scheme that is visually attractive and complimentary to your other design features. It may also be prudent to get ahead of the curve with child-proofing and resealable packaging, which other states, like California, already require. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. You should definitely consider adding your state’s “Contains THC” label, but know that you are rolling the dice on any other compliance assets. Additional compliance assets, such as lab testing for each batch, can be added as needed with additional labels. By keeping your base packaging versatile, you can order high volumes in order to lock in a lower price per unit, and you can add future compliance regulations with additional pressure sensitive labels.
- Variable Labeling
As growers know, cultivation can be more of an art than a science. There is always some variation from one grow to another, and most regulation requires that each crop be independently lab tested. As a result, many dispensaries incorrectly assume they must settle for slap-dash, last minute labels, but there is an alternative. Label vendors can use digital printers, such as the HP Indigo, to manufacture cost-effective, on-brand labels with variable information. Simply choose your basic design layout in advance and update each order with the new lab results. You’ll have eye-catching labels in no time, which you can adhere to your custom printed pouches to keep the regulators happy while turn heads with your awesome branding.
- Make it Your Own
Branding is all about identity, so make it your own. Print your pouches with your logo, slogan and complimentary colors. Add finishing touches like matte, gloss or soft touch. Print your logo on the inside of a pouch or add a branded shrink sleeve to your pre-roll tubes. As long as you leave plenty of room for compliance, the design options are endless. If you're stuck when it comes to design - contact us to learn more about our design studio offering.
Properly Navigating the Cannabis Industry
Walking the tight rope between compliance and branding is difficult, but not impossible. The suggestions in this article are a great start, but the goal posts are always moving. Contact Flexible Pack today to speak with a packaging expert, and we can help you find your balance!
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