Feds Adopt Cannabis Packaging Standards
Although cannabis is not federally legal at the time of publication, acknowledgement of this impending change is evident in the fringes of the government. One example is a newly adopted section to a federal standards handbook for weights and measures. This section, approved as of January 2022, contains information on cannabis potency measurements, marijuana packaging, labeling and other issues related to products derived from the plant. A vote at the annual meeting of the National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM) determined this change, which will be incorporated into federal guidance from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
Below is a summary of the drafted language of the NCWM cannabis proposal adopted for the NIST handbook:
1. The Director may:
(a) Establish by regulation for Cannabis and Cannabis-Containing Products:
(1) reasonable quantity variations caused by unavoidable loss or gain of moisture;
(2) labeling requirements for, and variations in water activity;
(3) labeling requirements for, and variations in levels of cannabinoid, and procedures for the measurement of potency; and
(4) packaging and labeling requirements. Some listed requirements include color, packaging type, identification markings, ingredients, potency, and special symbols or warnings.
(b) The Director may prescribe programs which utilize accredited testing laboratories.
An additional approved measure recommends state officials who are overseeing commercial weighing and measuring apparatuses retain the authority to establish individual standards pertaining to cannabis for their particular jurisdictions. This applies to rulemaking regarding measuring potency of cannabis products, medical and recreational marijuana packaging and labeling requirements, and “reasonable variations in levels of cannabinoid” content.
It also includes authorities on setting allowable variations in marijuana or hemp quantity due to the loss or gain of moisture. It is important to note state departments overseeing weights and measures are not required to incorporate the cannabis standardization policies. This section of the NIST handbook will be adopted in the next edition to be released in January 2023, and will apply to both medical marijuana packaging and recreational marijuana packaging, per state legality.
This connection to the cannabis industry is not new for NIST. In 2020, the organization announced a cannabis testing program to help ensure products purchased from retailers and dispensaries are accurately labeled. In 2021, the agency invited testing labs to participate in a large-scale study in order to assess their capacity to accurately analyze marijuana and hemp samples for their cannabinoid profile, as well as possible contaminants.
The annual NCWM votes during the meeting are submitted by proposal. One such proposal noted: “As states legalize sales of cannabis in its various forms, the need has arisen for uniform standards for scale suitability. Uniform requirements from one state to the next will strengthen each jurisdiction’s ability to effectively regulate the industry in a fair and equitable manner. Uniform standards also provide industry with expectations regardless of the jurisdiction, reducing potential conflict or confusion.”
Establishment of labeling and packaging requirements is often a first step after state legalization. Common restrictions include ensuring both medical marijuana packaging and recreational marijuana packaging is child resistant and opaque, as well as featuring an ingredient list and lab results. In some states such as Connecticut, Alaska and Maine, the specific amount of cannabis in the package must be listed. Mandatory evidence of tampering as well as resealable qualities are also becoming more popular.
States who have more recently legalized tend to enact more extensive requirements. Michigan, for example, requires all “containers, bags, or products holding the marihuana product must have a label and be sealed with all the following information:”
(a) The producer name of the licensee and license number, including business or trade name, and tag or source number as assigned by the statewide monitoring system.
(b) The name of the licensee and license number including business or trade name of licensee that packaged the product, if different from the processor.
(c) The unique identification number for the package or the harvest if applicable.
(d) Date of harvest.
(e) Name of strain.
(f) Net weight in United States customary and metric units.
(g) Concentration of THC or CBD.
(h) Activation time expressed in words or through a pictogram.
(i) Name of the safety compliance facility that performed any test, any associated test batch number, and any test analysis date.
(j) Universal symbol published by the department.
(k) A warning stating:
(i) “For use by registered qualifying patients only. Keep out of reach of children.”
(ii) “It is illegal to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of marihuana.”
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