With the legalization of cannabis also comes a list of regulatory requirements. The purpose of these regulations is to ensure that cannabis is safe for consumers. The states can also levy taxes that could, in turn, be used by the governments to benefit everyone.
With all these regulations, sustainable and childproof packaging still remains a significant challenge. While different industries are abandoning the use of plastic as a packaging material, cannabis companies have little choice if they want to keep up with the authorities.
While we are not contesting the fact that cannabis should be packaged in child-resistant containers, the industry is still producing a significant amount of plastic. Plastics have a significant environmental impact because they take many years to decompose. Decomposition in the sun also releases toxins into the soil, while burning the plastics releases toxins into the air.
Prior to the passage of Prop 64 in California, medical cannabis was packaged in minimal plastic tubes. The plastic tubes were reused, and a new label was attached. This practice helped save money and reduce the amount of plastic waste disposed of into the environment. The new regulations not only require childproof packaging but childproof exit bags as well. If a customer does not reuse their child-resistant packaging, a new one with childproof packaging (which is illegal to reuse) is required.
The most significant barrier to sustainable marijuana packaging seems to be the requirement for CR (child-resistant certified) packaging. While plastic is harmful to the environment, it has proven to be a durable and cost-effective material that passes CR certification.
Considering the negative impact of plastics on the environment, the cannabis industry is now looking for more sustainable plastic-free packaging that is compliant with child safety regulations. A California-based packaging company has recently been trying out several cannabis packaging alternatives using cardboard, recycled paper, and sugarcane.
The exit bag is posing a big challenge. Exit bags add costs for consumers and are also made of non-recyclable materials such as mylar and plastic. This bag will end up in the trash can, and this is not protecting the children. Although these bags are reusable, not all consumers choose to reuse them. On the other hand, delivery services must use a new exit bag with each purchase.
Child-resistant packaging is meant for psychoactive items such as tinctures and edibles, which kids or pets could confuse for food or candy. However, it does not really make much sense when it comes to packaging other items such as cannabis, which is unharmful when consumed raw. These items must be heated in order for the compounds that give marijuana its psychoactive properties to be released. Marijuana products such as edibles, flowers, topicals, tinctures, and concentrates are already differentiated by regulators, with particular packaging requirements for each cannabis product format.
States are moving in the right direction by prohibiting single-use plastics. Still, they are heading in the wrong direction when it comes to setting packaging material rules for selling cannabis. While the legalization of marijuana is still in the works, some companies, thankfully, are not waiting and are developing both compliant and sustainable packaging.
While still not 100% eco-friendly, barrier bags are still the lesser evil compared to plastic tubes and other rigid containers.