Draft rules for Canada’s legal cannabis market include some fairly strong restrictions on how cannabis companies can package their products. And with legalization immanent, companies are renewing their criticisms of Canada’s cannabis packaging rules. The Canadian government says they’re taking a health and public safety approach. But leading manufacturers say the rules are a mistake and could hurt the new market.
Canadian lawmakers haven’t finalized the draft rules yet. But the Senate is voting on legalization Thursday, which means the bill could become law by the end of the week.
Here’s a breakdown of what retailers can and can’t do when it comes to packaging, labeling, and branding their cannabis products.
Rules Drastically Restrict Branding Elements on Cannabis Packaging
Images previewing what legal cannabis packaging could look like in Canada present a stark picture of what the real-life impact of the rules.
Legal cannabis packages can only display one “brand element,” like a logo or icon, on the principal surface. But those elements can’t be any larger than the government’s “universal symbol” warning that the product contains cannabis. Currently, that symbol is a red stop sign with a marijuana leaf and THC/CBD label.
Furthermore, packaging must contain health warnings, in the largest font on the package, against a bright yellow background. Additionally, the rules strictly prohibit any kind of graphics, images, designs, special coatings, embossing or cutouts on any cannabis packaging.
Packages can be made out of any material in any size and shape, so long as they are child resistant and opaque or translucent.
Finally, packages must contain all lab test results (including allergens and contaminants) and cannabinoid concentrations in clear, large letters. Labels will also provide the name and contact information of the product’s processor.
The Debate Over Canada’s Cannabis Packaging Rules
In the report analyzing the government’s proposals, Health Canada said, “a clear majority” of those surveyed during consultation supported the draft rules’ strict approach. Opinions were more mixed, however, over this issue of restricting branding and logos.
Canada’s cannabis industry, on the other hand, has come out sharply opposed to the government’s proposed packaging rules, Bloomberg reports.
Cam Battley, CCO of Aurora Cannabis, Inc. blasted Canada’s cannabis packaging rules as unscientific. “Plain packaging that treats cannabis like tobacco is outrageous and scientifically wrong,” he said.
Battley argued that the rules could ruin Canada’s legal cannabis program. “The federal government is risking a policy fail,” he said.
Other producers echoed Battley’s claims, arguing that the draft rules hurt competition between businesses and put legal operations at a disadvantage viz. illegal retailers.
The industry would like to see the rules changed to treat cannabis packaging more like alcoholic beverages. They’ve even proposed their own guidelines for cannabis packaging and advertising to show what that might look like.
The rules aren’t finalized yet, and public and industry input can still change things. But time is running out. For its part, Health Canada insists the current proposals’ purpose is to ensure cannabis packaging isn’t attractive to young people.