Warning signs: Canada’s plain (and plastic) packaging policy

Cannabis may have been legalised in Canada but regulation has gone above and beyond to make sure that it is not seen as part of an attractive lifestyle. Health Canada has enforced rules that make the packaging bland apart from loud health warnings. Unfortunately it did not take the same consideration in terms of the health of the environment – customers have been disappointed to receive their products in wasteful plastics. For every gram of cannabis sold there can be as much as 70 grams of plastic, foil and other materials. Why not use biodegradables made from… hemp?

One person (see reddit link below) received 16 boxes for 21 strains and a bong! Now that is a whole new level of excessive! And we thought the amount of plastic baggies and pop tops that get thrown away daily in the UK was bad…

The logic behind the bland packaging is to satisfy the demand that nothing “appeals to young persons” or associates the product with “glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk or daring”, according to the Cannabis Act. Packaging must be opaque but fluorescent or metallic colours and glossy coatings are banned, making it difficult for brands to distinguish their products. No room for hippy images, tie-dyed colours and psychedelic designs here.

Other rules include:

  • A standardized cannabis logo;
  • Mandatory health warnings in English and French, in black letters on a yellow background;
  • THC and CBD content;
  • Only one brand name may appear, along with one additional branding element, which can be a word, slogan or logo;
  • Brands must be in a single colour, and font size may be no larger than the health warning;
  • Logos cannot be bigger than the cannabis logo;
  • Label backgrounds must be in one colour and must contrast with the cannabis logo;
  • Fluorescent or metallic colours, glossy coatings, embossing, texture, foil and peel-away labels are not allowed;
  • No inserts. Producers must supply retailers with health and safety information, precautions and directions to be provided to consumers.

The suggested label design limits space for brand names and company logos, and their size will always be smaller than the cannabis logo. Cannabis products legally sold in US states such as Colorado and California have labels with personal names (e.g. Henry’s, Mary’s and Nurse Heather), a variety of logos and with multiple colours and embossing — all of which would be unlawful in Canada.

Violations of the regulations are punishable by large fines (up to $250,000 for a first offence and $500,000 for additional offences), as well as possible imprisonment.

Each package must display one of six suggested health warnings on a bright yellow background. Suggestions include, “Cannabis can be addictive”, “Regular use of cannabis can increase the risk of psychosis and schizophrenia”, and “Adolescents are at great risk of harms from cannabis”.

The packaging regulations were decided after a 60-day public feedback process Health Canada began last November. The consultation received more than 3,200 online submissions and 450 written responses, in addition to input from health and law enforcement experts, governments, patient advocates and marijuana industry representatives.

So within a week of legal weed in Canada there’s environmental disregard with regulations over packaging already rearing their head… but lets face it, at least the sky didn’t fall down.

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