Cannabis Business Executive - What You Need to Know about Packaging Your Product

Cannabis Business Executive - What You Need to Know about Packaging Your Product

By: Berlin Packaging Specialist
Date: October 20, 2019

Whatever the reason you got into the cannabis-product business, you probably did not get into it to deal with rigorous packaging standards and regulations.  

Like many other aspects of bringing cannabis-derived products to market, packaging has its own unique challenges that can incur hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines if not properly addressed. However, with a knowledgeable packaging partner, you can successfully navigate the regulations that help ensure product safety.

Common Sense Regulations

Packaging system confidence starts with choosing a reputable and knowledgeable packaging partner. Choose one with experience in regulated industries and preferably one who has some cannabis packaging experience as well. Do not trust a packager who claims certification without knowing all of the needs and requirements of your package. Transparency is key; the more your packaging partner knows about your specific application, the more likely their packaging ideas will work.  

Be sure to share details like ingredients, dosage, lifecycle, shelf life, storage, and use conditions. Share whether opacity is required, either due to state laws or for light protection. The lifecycle of a package can impact performance as well: opening a package just once may require different design features than a package that needs to open and close multiple times throughout its lifecycle. Capturing and sharing all the performance requirements will help ensure you’re picking the right package for your use.

You will also need to think about how your package looks both on-the-shelf and at home. While laws vary from state to state, packaging a product that is harmful to children in child-appealing packaging is not recommended. Think twice before showing off your multi-colored edibles through a clear container that a child might confuse with candy (even if a state allows it).

While cannabis is still illegal on a federal level (USA), your Child Resistant Closures (CRC) must adhere to the regulations dictated in the Poison Prevention Packaging Act.

In addition to the considerations, some of which are listed above, these regulations require testing the container system with people (both children and seniors) to ensure that, should a child get access to the package despite all the design barriers, parents have enough time to react to keep their kids safe.

What does CR Certification Entail?

A reputable and knowledgeable packaging partner will only promote “CR” on a container and closure systemthat have passed these tests, however, the test itself is only a part of the full certification of child resistance.

Even if your packaging partner validated and passed the CR test on a given container system, and has the results to prove it, you, and not the packaging company, will be liable should a package fail.Some things to think about:

  1. Did your packaging partner test the system with your product type in mind? If so, those results might be enough. If not, you might still need to perform further testing to ensure safety and efficacy.
  2. In addition to passing the CR Test, do you meet the additional requirements to certify child resistance? (e.g.: proper labeling and branding that is not attractive to children, a package that meets your dosing and lifecycle requirements, materials that are compatible with your product, etc.).
  3. You own the child-resistant certification in perpetuity. If your process changes over time, in even the smallest way, it may impact the safety of your package.
  4. If a package fails – no matter how far in the future – you will need to prove that your package was made to specification and still meets all requirements. Therefore, make sure that not only your processes are in control, but so are your packaging suppliers’.

Document your process and design controls and keep a copy of your CR-testing safe. Proof that your process still follows established protocols can protect you should a package fail. Failing to conduct tests, not recording results, or not ensuring proper process controls in your packaging process can be catastrophic to your business.

At a federal level (USA), fines of up to $100,000 per unit sold with a maximum penalty of $16 million can easily put any fledgling cannabis venture out of business. There are also profit forfeiture laws and other penalties that should be motivation enough to perform the tests and make sure your systems pass.

What does a CR test entail?

Going at it alone is not recommended. Your package system needs to thwart a child’s attempt at opening, while not overly frustrating folks aged from 50 to 70 to gaining access when needed. If you need to conduct your own testing to validate that a package is CR compliant, find an experienced testing firm that has a large, accessible network of local pre-schools and day-care centers for the children, as well as a methodical way of finding seniors.

Like your packaging partner, be transparent with them about your product type (solid, liquid) and packaging requirements. Also let them know where you’re selling your product, as test methods vary from country to country. Finally, prior to spending the $8,000-$12,000 on testing for CRC, send them one or two container systems to gauge their confidence in the package passing.

Your testing partner should be familiar with the appropriate tests and approach for your application and country. And again, no matter how rigorous your packaging partner’s tests are, you still must determine if these tests meet your requirements. Ultimately, you will be held liable should things go askew.

Here are some helpful questions to ask when working with a packaging partner:

Where will I sell this product? 

Each country has its own slightly different methods for CRC Testing. The USA test method, for instance, might not meet the Canadian CRC guidelines.

Does it require CRC? 

Not all cannabis products need it and not all states require it. (examples: in the USA, Hemp-based CBD may not require CR in all states, some single-serving packages may not require CR)

Is my product compatible with the materials I’m using?

Some highly concentrated oils are known to deteriorate certain types of plastics. Make sure you know how your product will react with your packaging materials, especially over time.

How was it tested?

Example: if your package is a traditional “push & turn” style, torque requirements can impact test results. Understanding the steps taken by your packager during testing can help you replicate them during your assembly and determine its fit for use.

Will it survive openings/closings?

Single-serving versus multiple-servings may have different lifecycle requirements.

Are the materials “safe”, and made in a facility that is specific to indication? 

Not all material resins or manufacturing facilities are required to be “food-grade” or “pharma-grade”– make sure that your facility & raw materials meet your requirements.

Is it intended to hold liquids?

CRC for liquids requires that the package was tested with a liquid and confirmation it did not leak during the testing.

The CR test is found under the Federal Poison Prevention Packaging Act (PPPA, 16 CFR §1700.1) and the test method itself is PPPA, 16 CFR § 1700.20.

Click here for a list of testing companies from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).