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Visualize: Insights that power innovation

Considerations for Cannabis Labeling

By David Geller  |  January 15, 2020

This article was written in conjunction with students studying risk management at East Carolina University (ECU). The students also recorded a webinar in November 2019 pertaining to risks that different cannabinoids may pose. To watch the recording, click here.

The continuous legalization of cannabis throughout the United States has coincided with increasing awareness of the potential risks that may correspond with its use. For example, a longstanding federal ban has restricted research, which has partially created uncertainty regarding potential health effects.1 Additionally, various studies have pointed out an increase in car accidents in states that permit recreational marijuana use, perhaps linking the substance to the incidents, according to CNN.2  

In addition to popularly discussed potential effects of marijuana, the nascent marijuana industry also may experience issues from a seemingly obscure part of any operation: labeling. Even though cannabis labeling may not be at the forefront of mainstream discussions, its relevance in distributing the product should not be dismissed.

This article sets out to examine some aspects of cannabis labeling.

Cannabis Labeling: State of the States

Given that California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana, it is appropriate that a state-level examination of the cannabis labeling landscape start there.3

In 2016, California passed Proposition 64, also referred to as the Adult Use Marijuana Act (AUMA).4 The Act, according to a summary, “[e]stablishes packaging, labeling, advertising, and marketing standards and restrictions for marijuana products.”5 

CannaBusiness Law lists out some key provisions in AUMA that relate to labeling and packaging, including:

  • A requirement that, prior to delivery or sale at a retailer, marijuana and marijuana products are to be placed in a resealable, child resistant package. Additionally, the package and labels should not be attractive to children.
  • When the package contains only dried flower, the net weight of marijuana in the package needs to be listed
  • The source and date of cultivation, type of marijuana or marijuana product, and the date of manufacturing and packaging, needs to be provided
  • Any solvents, nonorganic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers that were used in the cultivation, production and manufacture of the product also needs to be included.6

According to the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP), “[a]ll state laws require products to be assayed and labeled by the grower, and ideally verified by an accredited third-party lab, for at least the two major cannabinoids currently of interest, THC and CBD.”7

However, ISMP notes that most state regulations do not impose a requirement on how companies are to indicate the quantity of these components. Sometimes, the label reflects a ratio, such as THC:CBD. Other times, it is displayed as a percentage. This inconsistency could prove to be confusing for users, specifically individuals that are consuming for medical purposes and may need to take a specified amount as part of their treatment. This list of state requirements from Weber Packaging, last updated in June 2018, provides context for the different state laws with respect to marijuana packaging and labeling.8 Some states, such as New York and Oregon, have an extensive list of items to comply with. Others, such as Michigan and Montana, have no cannabis labeling and packaging requirements, based on the Weber Packaging list.9

Additionally, ISO Emerging Issues posted back in October 2019 that Massachusetts, reportedly has begun levying penalties on companies not in compliance with state labeling laws.

As more states continue to legalize marijuana, whether for medical, adult-use, or both, staying cognizant of the various packaging and labeling laws may be crucial.

East Carolina University Student Contributors:
Darryl Allen, Matthew Core, Takarra Hall, Aundray Johnson, Majd Laymoun, Adison Mamula, Reece Parillo, Alexandra Phan, Rachel Pleasants, Samuel Ramsey, Daniel Schutzer, Caleb Weger

In addition to Cannabis, ISO monitors over 40 different emerging issues. For more information, read here.

 

  1. Marisa Taylor, Melissa Bailey, “Medical Marijuana’s ‘Catch-22’: Limits on Research Hinder Patient Relief,” NPR, April 7, 2018, < https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/04/07/600209754/medical-marijuanas-catch-22-limits-on-research-hinders-patient-relief >, accessed on January 15, 2020.
  2. Jen Christensen, “States That Legalized Recreational Weed See Increase in Car Accidents, Studies Say,” CNN, October 18, 2018, < https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/18/health/marijuana-driving-accidents-bn/index.html >, accessed on January 15, 2020.
  3. “Timeline: Marijuana Legalization in California,” NBC, December 14, 2017, < https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/timeline-marijuana-legalization-in-california/40370/ >, accessed on January 15, 2020.
  4. Patrick McGreevy, “Voters Legalize Pot in California. Here’s What Will Happen Next,” Los Angeles Times, November 8, 2016, < https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-proposition-64-california-legalizes-marijuana-snap-20161108-story.html >, accessed on January 15, 2020.
  5. Proposition 64 Marijuana Legalization Initiative Statute, 2016, < https://vig.cdn.sos.ca.gov/2016/general/en/pdf/prop64-title-summ-analysis.pdf >, accessed on January 15, 2020.
  6. Erica Treeby, “Labeling Requirements for Recreational Cannabis Products Focus on Safety and Transparency,” CannaBusiness Law, January 19, 2017 < http://cannabusinesslaw.com/2017/01/labeling-requirements-for-recreational-cannabis-products-focus-on-safety-and-transparency/ >, accessed on January 15, 2020.
  7. Christine Roussel, “As Approval of Medical Cannabis Spreads State by State, Product Labeling Improvements Are a Must,” Institute for Safe Medication Practices, May 9, 2019, < https://www.ismp.org/resources/approval-medical-cannabis-spreads-state-state-product-labeling-improvements-are-must >, accessed on January 15, 2020.
  8. Cannabis Labeling Requirements By State, Weber Packaging, June 2018, < http://www.weberpackaging.com/pdfs/Cannabis%20Laws%20by%20State.pdf >, accessed on January 15, 2020.
  9. Ibid.
  10. “Marijuana: Labeling Fines and Lawsuits Beginning to Occur in Massachusetts,” ISO Emerging Issues, October 28, 2019, < https://emergingissues.iso.com/post/2221 >, accessed on January 15, 2020.

David Geller, CPCU, SCLA, is a senior analyst with the ISO Emerging Issues team. You can contact David at David.Geller@Verisk.com.