Child resistant packaging was first developed in the late 1960s and has been mandated for certain products since 1970, when the Poison Prevention Packaging Act (PPPA) became federal law. The PPPA identifies household substances that may cause serious harm to children if accidentally ingested, and requires that they be packaged in child-resistant packaging is subject to a rigorous testing protocol. For a substance to be subject to the PPPA, it must meet two criteria:
- Significant Risk. The product must present a risk of serious injury or illness to a child who can ingest or handle the contents. Cannabis products meet this criteria, as a child consuming cannabis edibles could experience various dangerous symptoms, particularly if a large quantity of candy-like, high-concentration edibles are consumed.
- Ability to Effectively Package. The technology must either already exist or be possible to develop that would allow the mass production of child-resistant packaging that would not impact the quality or interfere with the use of the product.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which is tasked with the administration of the PPPA, has specific guidelines that are used to determine whether a product meets these qualifications.
Child-Resistant Packaging for Medications and Cannabis Products
Understanding the need for child resistant (CR) packaging starts with understanding the state’s regulations and codes as well as defining which type of cannabis product is being discussed.
For example, many cannabis concentrates, distillates and oils are in jars that have CR feature; therefore the secondary packaging (folding carton) may not be required to have any special CR functionality or need to be certified.
Cannabis products such as cartridges (that are loaded into vape pens) can also be considered to be CR compliant, but some states don’t and therefore the secondary folding carton must have a CR certified design in order to be compliant.
Cannabis edibles are the product that most often will need to have a secondary package (folding carton) that is CR approved. Edibles such as chocolate bars and other candies can only be wrapped with foil or plastic which is does not contain and CR functionality.
One of the last lines of defense that is used by a cannabis company and dispensaries is the use of CR exit bags. In the event the product’s primary or secondary cannabis packaging does not have CR functionality or the company doesn’t want to invest in a different package, the dispensary can place the cannabis product into a retail exit bag. However, more and more responsible and leading cannabis companies are moving away from using exit bags as a CR solution because they understand that it pushes the responsibility to the dispensary level where mistakes and risk can still occur.
Cannabis Packaging: Changing Laws
The fact that marijuana is still illegal under federal law, even for medical purposes, means that each state must develop their own regulatory laws and practices as cannabis-infused products are legalized within their borders. This applies to packaging regulations as well as those governing usage restrictions. Packaging requirements differ not only between states, but also between products intended for medical and recreational use: an extractor who has been successfully producing medical marijuana for years may have to develop new, child-resistant packaging to sell the exact same product for recreational use.
While most states that have legalized recreational marijuana require cannabis-infused products to be sold in child resistant packaging, some also require that the containers be opaque and/or resealable. Labels are generally required by law to contain information on all ingredients, concentration, and serving size, but some jurisdictions also require multiple warning statements and/or a marijuana symbol, or prohibit packaging that could appeal to children.
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