Do I need child-resistant packaging?

Adult-Use Cannabis is legal in California and along with legalization came a slew of regulations. From permits to walk-throughs, milligram caps and packaging and labeling requirements, there have been a slurry of headaches, paperwork, and above all, questions. As the CEO for a California Cannabis packaging design studio, I am writing this article to lift the haze surrounding one of these headaches, child-resistant packaging requirements.

The Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch (MCSB) emergency regulations were approved and went into effect on December 7, 2017. From December to January, manufacturers, distributors and dispensaries have been struggling to rework their formulations and packaging without bastardizing their brand but the packaging requirements outlined in the Emergency Regulations are extremely vague and we at Purple Line Media have been pounded with questions; What does child-resistant mean? What types of packaging solutions are child-resistant? How am I required to package my flower and what about things like seeds? Do they need to be child-resistant? What about vape cartridges, concentrates, pre-rolls, tinctures, e-juice, topicals, the list goes on and on.

The Cannabis product labeling and packaging requirements start on page 81 of the MCSB Emergency Regulations and read as such:

  • 40415. Packaging. A package used to contain a cannabis product shall adhere to the following requirements: … (c) The package shall be child-resistant, which means the package shall be designed or constructed to be significantly difficult for children under five years of age to open or otherwise obtain access to the product contained therein within a reasonable time, and shall not be difficult for normal adults to open or obtain access to the product contained therein. A package shall be deemed child-resistant if it satisfies the standard for “special packaging” as set forth in the Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970 Regulations * (16 C.F.R. §1700.1(b)(4)). (e) If the product is an edible product, the package shall be opaque. (f) If the package contains more than one serving of cannabis product, the package shall be re-sealable so that child-resistance is maintained throughout the life of the package

*definition of “special packaging” from the Poison Prevention Packaging Act:

(4) Special packaging means packaging that is designed or constructed to be significantly difficult for children under 5 years of age to open or obtain a toxic or harmful amount of the substance contained therein within a reasonable time and not difficult for normal adults to use properly, but does not mean packaging which all such children cannot open or obtain a toxic or harmful amount within a reasonable time.


Based on the verbiage above, all Cannabis products need to be in child-resistant packaging but does the packaging need to be re-sealable child-resistant or child-resistant re-sealable? There is a difference.

There are basically two types of child-resistant packaging categories;

1) single-use child-resistant packaging

2) re-sealable child-resistant packaging.

Single-use child-resistant packaging are items that require special effort to get into like scissors and cannot be re-sealed after the seal is broken. These packaging items include blister packs and mylar bags without tear notches and tend to be fairly affordable.

Image: Single-use mylar bag.

Re-sealable child-resistant packaging are items that preserve their child-resistant functionality every time you open the package. These packaging items include, child-resistant tubes and pop-tops as well as certified child-resistant bags and boxes that require special techniques to open and tend to be fairly expensive.

Image: Child-resistant box.

Now that we understand the two types of child-resistant packaging options, the big question remains, which packaging structure do I need to use for my product? For this answer, I reached out to a contact over at the MCSB and she provided this bit of clarity:

At this point, only edibles must be in packaging that maintains its child-resistance throughout the life of the package. Vape cartridges are categorized as concentrates, and they must initially be in child-resistant packaging, but one-time use is fine.

One other piece of information (related question that we’ve been asked a lot) – All cannabis products, if they are meant to be used more than once, must be re-sealable. Simply put, there must be a way to close the package (lid on a jar, box can be closed, etc.). We consider vape cartridges to be inherently re-sealable, because they can be locked into a pen.

So, everything must be re-sealable. Edibles packaging must be child-resistant throughout the life of the product (multiple use child-resistance). Non-edibles, like concentrates and topicals, must initially be in child-resistant packaging (one time use child-resistance).

Ok. Now the requirements are starting to make sense. Single-use child-resistant packaging is approved to use for flower, pre-rolls, topicals, concentrates, seeds and tinctures so long as they are re-sealable after the child-resistant packaging has been discarded. The only item required to go in a special child-resistant re-sealable package are multi-dose edibles. Got it. But what about the people who haven’t read this article? Let’s talk about barrier to entry.

As I said, there is a haze surrounding packaging requirements and we are in an educational period. Distributers and retailers are being told by peers, fellow businesses and large Cannabis packaging resellers, that everything needs to be re-sealable child-resistant which we just learned isn’t the case. The packaging resellers have a vested interest in propagating misleading child-resistant packaging restrictions because the child-resistant re-sealable items carry a higher price-tag. With misinformation and an underlying fear of being fined or stuck with inventory that needs to be destroyed, retailers are erring on the side of caution which means, even if you are following the regulations, your product may get turned away for distribution. Argh.

As a Cannabis design studio that specializes in packaging, Purple Line Media is faced with a unique challenge. How do we tell our clients how to cost-effectively package their product in order to meet the requirements and not face a barrier to entry on shelf? In order to answer the question, we have developed the list below that puts products into different risk buckets when it comes to child-resistant, re-sealable packaging. Please note: regardless of risk, we still advise you to seek legal input on your packaging decisions.

Low Risk

Single-Dose Edibles

Seeds

Vape Cartridges

Topicals

 

Medium Risk

Flower/Prerolls

 

High Risk

Tinctures/Concentrates

Sublinguals

Capsules

 

Mandatory

Multi-Dose Edibles/Beverages

 

Now that you have an understanding of the regulations and your product’s risk level you should be able to make better decisions about how best to package your Cannabis product. However, until the educational period is over and Cannabis packaging develops standardized fully-adopted norms, I suggest making conservative decisions. Don’t invest big money on one-time print costs or a large packaging order unless you feel confident in your decision. Talk to your distribution network and ask them the types of requirements they may have. And don’t forget, regulations are subject to change at any time. It may be more expensive, but doesn’t hurt to over package until the dust settles.


Based in Northern California Purple Line Media is a boutique design studio that specializes in legitimizing cannabis brands through elegant design and consistent, relevant messaging.  Co-founded by Liz Kost, chief executive officer and Jason Foraker, President/creative director, the team at Purple Line Media has more than 20 years’ experience in the consumer packaged goods industry and focuses on brand identity, marketing collateral and packaging design for Cannabis.  Purple Line Media is a member of the NCIA and the CCIA and Liz Kost has presented on the topics of consumer targeting, cannabis industry compliance and emerging markets. www.purplelinemedia.com