CALIFORNIA CANNABIS COMPLIANCE
We are literally counting down the hours to the big Cali Cannabis showdown on July 1st. The Golden State’s had exactly six months to make sure it’s in-line with the new canna regulations and come Sunday, everything has to be ready. There’s a general mood of excitement in the industry this week, but it’s coupled with a frantic push toward the finish line and we know that some brands, dispensaries and farmers are finding it all a bit overwhelming.
Sooooo…. Here’s a little July 1st Cali Compliant Checklist to make things just that little bit easier for ya!
Firstly, all information noted here is correct at the time of publishing, but remember that compliance is a moving target. Things change and they change fast. One regulation that’s not liable to change, however, is that lab testing is an industry requirement. Make no mistake. All cannabis products must be tested for both THC levels and for contaminants, including pesticides, heavy metals, microbial contamination, and residual solvents. These tests can only take place in one of California’s 30-or-so licensed labs and results must then be displayed on your product’s packaging. If it hasn’t been lab-tested, it can’t be sold. Plain and simple, baby.
Here’s another basic fact to be aware of. Certain products are prohibited. While it may be cool to be innovative and to get a product out there that no-one else seems to have thought of, it’s a good idea to check that it’s not on the Prop 64 no-no list. California’s saying no to:
- cannabis-infused dairy products (except butter that comes from a licensed milk products plant)
- meat products (except for dried meat products that meet certain requirements)
- cannabinoid concentrates or extracts that are applied to commercially available candy and snacks
- cannabis products that regulatory authorities believe could be easily mistaken for non-cannabis commercially available foods
- cannabis products that regulatory authorities believe could be attractive to children (yeah, we know, it’s more than a bit vague this one)
- cannabis products that look like human beings, animals, insects or fruit (by the way, if anyone were actually able to create a cannabis product that looked human, hats off to you!)
Swiftly moving on…
Yep! Regulations have slapped a number of fixed THC restrictions on both edibles and non-edibles, for both the recreational and medicinal markets. Here’s the breakdown:
- edibles cannot exceed 10 milligrams of THC per serving
- edibles cannot exceed 100 milligrams of THC per package (incidentally, any product with more than one serving per package must be stored in a resealable package so that it remains childproof, but more on the rigorous changes to labels and packaging in a bit)
- non-edibles for recreational purposes cannot exceed more than 1000 milligrams of THC per package
- non-edibles for medicinal purposes are allowed to go up to 2000 milligrams of THC per package, but that is the absolute limit (again, labels and packaging regulations come into play here too).
And then there’s what to do with your waste. The BCC (Bureau of Cannabis Control) hasn’t made that much of a deal about this one, but the regulation exists all the same. If you’re working with cannabis, then you need to have your cannabis waste procedures clearly defined. Authorities want to know the local agency or waste hauler you plan to use and what your on-site composting procedure might be. You’ll also need to provide robust plans to show where your cannabis will be stored, where samples will be batched, where shipments will be loaded and unloaded, where deliveries will be loaded, and where extraction will take place, if applicable. Is your head spinning yet? Don’t worry, it gets even more mind-boggling.
Now this is the good stuff: the stuff that gets our creative fingers tapping to the funky canna beat.
Let’s begin by saying that the changes to label requirements and packaging regulations are anything but simple, but we’ve had loads of fun getting into the details and helping a number of brands get their products packaged correctly in time for the July 1st deadline. On a basic level, all information printed on labels must be in English, unobstructed and sufficiently conspicuous (we just love the vague quality of this regulation too), and printed on the outside wrapper or container of the finished product. With us, so far?
Here come the panels…
Using a type size of no less than a 6 point font, all cannabis products must be labelled with a primary panel that includes the following information:
- identity of the product
- universal symbol for Cali cannabis (take note that the symbol must be black in color and no smaller in than half (.5) inch by half (.5) inch, unless the packaging is dark, in which case the
symbol may be highlighted by outlining it or printing it on a contrasting color)
- net weight or volume of the package contents
- THC content and CBD content for the package, recorded in milligrams per package
- extra info that brand owners might want to include, such as other cannabinoids or terpenes (but this information must be verified by a certificate of analysis issued by one of the licensed testing laboratories)
If your product happens to be an edible, then you also have to include the following:
- the words “cannabis-infused” must be printed immediately above the identity of the product, they must appear in bold and in a larger font size than that used to print the identity of the product
- the THC content and CBD content, expressed in milligrams per serving
The informational panel is a little more complex. Text must be printed with no less than a 6 point font, but any supplemental labeling must be printed with no less than a 8 point font. General requirements are as follows:
- name, contact number or website address of the licensed manufacturer
- the date when the product was manufactured and packaged
- the following statement, in bold print, word for word: “GOVERNMENT WARNING: THIS PRODUCT CONTAINS CANNABIS, A SCHEDULE I CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE. KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN AND ANIMALS. CANNABIS PRODUCTS MAY ONLY BE POSSESSED OR CONSUMED BY PERSONS 21 YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER UNLESS THE PERSON IS A QUALIFIED PATIENT. THE INTOXICATING EFFECTS OF CANNABIS PRODUCTS MAY BE DELAYED UP TO TWO HOURS. CANNABIS USE WHILE PREGNANT OR BREASTFEEDING MAY BE HARMFUL. CONSUMPTION OF CANNABIS PRODUCTS IMPAIRS YOUR ABILITY TO DRIVE AND OPERATE MACHINERY. PLEASE USE EXTREME CAUTION.”
- a list of all product ingredients in descending order of predominance by weight or volume;
- directions for how to use the product, for example method of consumption or application, and any
preparation requirements that might be necessary
- the product expiration date, if applicable
- the UID and batch number, if applicable
- PLEASE NOTE… any additional information related to cannabinoids or terpenes that brand owners may want to include must be verified by a certificate of analysis issued by one of California’s licensed testing laboratories
If you happen to have a product that is for medicinal use only, and which contains more than 1000 milligrams of THC per package, then you also must have the phrase, “FOR MEDICAL USE ONLY”, printed on the informational panel.
And just because they love making life difficult, there are three more requirements to meet when dealing with edibles:
- edibles that contain an ingredient, flavoring, coloring, or incidental additive related to a major food allergen, must have the word, “contains,” printed on the informational panel, followed by a list of the applicable major food allergens
- all edible products must name any artificial food colorings used
- all edible products must accurately record, in grams, the amount of sodium, sugar, carbohydrates, and fat per serving.
But enough of what you’re required to do and more about what you’re banned from doing…
Let’s be nice and clear on this one. You cannot claim that your cannabis product was produced using cannabis grown in a specific Californian county, unless all of the cannabis was grown in that county. We’re talking every single flower. Equally, you can’t print the name of any Californian county on your product’s label, unless all the cannabis used to produce your product was grown in that same county. And we do mean all of it.
Moving on, it starts to get a little vague. You can’t create labels that are attractive to anyone under the age of 21. What that’s actually supposed to mean is anyone’s guess, but it’s a good idea to stay away from cartoons, and likenesses to images, characters, and phrases that are already used to advertise to children. Avoid imitating in any way existing candy packaging, and be fully aware that use of the term “candy” or “candies” is strictly forbidden. Understood?
You also need to be pretty careful about printing something that’s untrue or misleading in some way. This means that health-related statements must be 100% supported by publicly available scientific evidence. If you can’t prove it, don’t print it.
So, what do you do if your packaging is simply too small to physically include all the information required on both labels? You have to change your packaging idea and start again.
It’s simple… The powers that be have said that it’s ok for you to use a supplemental label. This might take the form of a hang tag or peel-back label, for example, so there’s plenty of room for you to be creative there too. Any info you can’t fit onto the main labels can be added to this extra one. More information can be found about supplemental labels at: www.cdph.ca.gov/mcsb
Ahhhh, our favorite 🙂
The nice thing about the packaging regulations is that they are dominated by two main themes: child safety and product freshness. Essentially, the regulatory authorities want brand owners to ensure that the packaging they design for their products will keep products safe from harmful or toxic substances, keep them fresh, and keep children out.
Also, prior to delivery or sale at a retailer, cannabis and cannabis products shall be labeled and placed in a resealable, tamper-evident, child-resistant package and shall include a unique identifier for the purposes of identifying and tracking cannabis and cannabis products.
And remember, if you can eat it or drink it, then it must be packaged in something opaque. Eat it and drink it, but don’t you dare let anyone look at it.
Let’s take a deeper look at what it actually means to have Child Resistant Packaging (CRP). According to the standards set out in the federal Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970 (PPPA, 16 CFR §1700.1), CRP means packaging that is deliberately designed to make it very difficult for under fives to open. As part of the new regulations for cannabis products in California, CRP can either be designed for Single Use or for Multiple Use. ALL EDIBLES must be packaged in Multiple Use packaging. Other products are fine in Single Use (meaning that once the package has been opened it is no longer child-resistant).
A very important note here… Packaging can only be considered child-resistant when it has received certification from the PPPA. Your packaging supplier should be able to confirm whether your packaging is going to meet these standards or not, so ask them!
Errmmmm… and that’s about it. For now, at least. Regulations have a funny way of changing with the wind, so we might need to update this post from time to time as life in the Golden State begins to find its new canna rhythm. If in doubt, give us a shout, or alternatively, send a quick message to one of the following state agencies, in charge of regulations and licenses. These are the guys in the know:
1) The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), in charge of cultivators, processors, and nurseries (website)
2) The California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch, in charge of cannabis manufacturers (website)
3) The Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC), in charge of distributors, retailers, delivery-only retailers, microbusinesses, temporary cannabis events, and laboratories. (website)
One of the things that makes it difficult for any cannabis or CBD business to function is the lack of banking support. A solid merchant account is something that all businesses need, whatever the industry, but in the cannabis space finding one is a real challenge. Even though the 2018 Farm Bill made it legal to cultivate hemp on a federal level, and even though most states have legalized the cultivation and sales of cannabis and cannabis products to varying degrees, cannabis and CBD businesses are still having a hard time with banks and credit card companies. It makes the running of a legal, professional business difficult, if not impossible, which is why merchant account service providers, like InclusivePay, have come to the rescue.
As the sun rises on a new day, another CBD brand appears. It's selling the same white label CBD products as all the others, made from oils that are rich in CBD and low in THC. The only difference is that the product has been packaged in a slightly different container, and there's a new name and logo printed on top. The CBD market has quickly become the area of the cannabis industry that's suffering most from a lack of differentiation. So, what’s a CBD brand to do? Well, one recommendation would be to partner up with a CBD formulator.
The passing of the 2018 Farm Bill gave CBD exactly what it needed to soar. As a result, the CBD industry in 2019 has already experienced exponential growth. Data suggests the trend will continue in the years to come, with the CEO of ArcView Group, Tony Dayton, predicting that CBD product sales will climb to $20 billion by 2024. For CBD brands and businesses, both established and emerging, this can only mean one thing… heightened competition and less opportunity to control market share.