The Future of Cannabis Packaging

The Future of Cannabis

When it comes to ideal cannabis packaging, there is no perfect answer. Many people may feel they have the solution to cannabis packaging, but it all depends where your priorities lay. For those that wish to preserve the taste and smell, glass cannot be beaten. For those that are more concerned about the sustainability of their cannabis packaging, recyclable material (including glass) is best. There are also a large number of cannabis users whose main priority is to keep their children away from their stash. In cases like this, security is the most paramount aspect of the package.

Accidental consumption and intoxication have always been a concern when it comes to cannabis packaging. Before the legalization of recreational weed in Canada in 2018, access by children was the number one concern. If you choose to believe him, Prime Minister Trudeau’s whole reason for legalizing it in the first place was to ‘keep it out of the hands of Canadian children.’ 

To reduce these risks in Canada, strict regulations were imposed on cannabis packaging. But this measure though has also created its own monster – tons of extra waste packaging that will be hell to the environment. An increasing amount of Canadians are growing concerned over the amount of extra garbage. Is more secure packaging the answer? Or should we be focused on sustainability? What about what is best for the product, which is what we’re paying for, after all?

How Did Cannabis Legalization Change Packaging?

Strict regulations have been imposed by the government on cannabis packaging to reduce the risks of accidental cannabis consumption and intoxication among children.

  • Fancy packaging and bright colors are prohibited. This is all done to make them less appealing to children. Instead, the government demands that packaging should be plain and uniformly colored. Moreover, the packaging should also not contain any pictures of people, animals, or even fruits that make the product seem appetizing and appealing.
  • The packaging should be opaque and not show its contents (which is really for the best as light leads to THC degradation). It should also be clearly labeled with the red THC symbol as well as the yellow health warning sign.
  • The packaging should be tamper-evident, as well as child-resistant.

These make the packaging pretty costly and wasteful. Furthermore, these restrictions also limit the producers’ creativity, of course, in creating a memorable brand name. It’s undeniable that the new packaging has helped reduce the risks of accidental consumption and intoxication which is of great importance.

Child Access

The question is though, why are children getting their hands on the cannabis packages in the first place? I don’t write this to shame anyone. I have a niece who manages to find her way into anything, so I know how curious and hard to keep track of children can be. That said, it is your responsibility to keep the packages out of reach in the first place. If a child is present, there should never be a situation where they can even try to open a cannabis package to begin with

The logic is sound in not creating packaging that appeals to children, but by the government’s own rules, children should never be shown packaging anyway. Advertising laws prohibit marketing anywhere that children could see and you have to be at least 19 to enter a store. Grocery markets are lined with products not suitable for children covered in playful imagery and bright colours. Does it mean these products are for children? Or that if they were a plain colour, they’d be safe to be kept around children? No and no.

It is a parent’s responsibility to keep cannabis products away from children. Whether or not they have a smiling teddy bear or raccoon on colourful packaging should make no difference on if children have access to it.

Green Going Greener

A mentioned earlier, these measures have also created an environmental problem.

Buying weed is not as simple as tossing a few buds into a cardboard box or a plastic bag. At least not anymore. Per the government’s rules; products should be contained inside child-resistant containers or bottles with push-and-twist lids. Unfortunately, most of these packages are made from heavy, hard-to-recycle plastics. So it’s comical and, at the same time, sad that the packaging is sometimes a lot heavier than the product itself. Even for a gram or a single joint, there is packaging that far outweighs and outlives its contents.

But producers have their hands tied. They have to comply with the laws on cannabis packaging or risk losing their license.

Most of these extra waste materials and plastics are destined for landfills, of course. In fact, a cannabis industry expert believed that the first year of legalization has generated about 10,000 tons of waste from cannabis packaging alone.

It’s clear that as time moves forward; we have to look for a more sustainable and compostable solution than these single-use packaging materials. The economic growth of a booming industry should never put the environment at risk.

One Canadian, concerned about the amount of waste being produced by LP packaging, is turning ones mans garbage into another’s…arm. Jacob Boudreau has started a movement where he converts old lids into prosthetic limbs. This is hopefully the first of many people who find ways to recycle the waste produced by the cannabis industry.

buy-weed-online-just-cannabis-packagin
Jacob Boudreau with one of his prosthetic hands.

Falling Short

The cannabis packaging and containers that resulted from the government’s guidelines are designed to be child-resistant and, at the same time, preserve the product’s quality. The second part, however, is a lot easier said than done. Despite the best efforts of various industry giants, there has yet to be a package that actually preserves the terpenes in the bud. There are countless stories of people receiving dry, harsh and even moldy weed from the government, all due to its packaging. Many of the companies also choose to skip the curing process, in order to get the product out quicker.

The Cure (Not The Band)

The cure is arguably the most important part of growing, yet is often overlooked. Cannabis that should for all intents and purposes be potent, with amazing terpenes, and smooth to smoke; arrives the opposite. Void of any real taste or smell and it never seems as potent as the THC percentage of the package claims to be. Cannabis is very vulnerable to oxygen and the more it is kept in a container where it is exposed to air, the quicker it will lose its freshness and become far less appealing.

Furthermore, with our society becoming even more environmentally conscious, we can assume that there will be changes in cannabis packaging laws that will benefit us and the environment as well. But these changes will take time.

Fortunately, some industry leaders have already taken steps in addressing these environmental concerns. A packaging company in Ontario, Packaging Naturally, has created a non-plastic, recyclable, and biodegradable packaging made from organic materials. Another company from British Columbia, Nitrotin, offers recyclable aluminum packaging and shipping containers.

But before these changes materialize, we, as consumers, also have to do our own part in minimizing our wastes.

How Can We Do Our Part In Minimizing Waste As A Cannabis User?

Waste packaging
A comparison of waste pre vs post legalization.

As a cannabis consumer, there are several ways that you can also reduce your waste:

  • I reuse our packaging from Just Cannabis all the time when on road trips or camping. I store herbs and spices, as well as pack salt and pepper in them. You can create a seasoning mix and store it there too. I’ve also used them to help distribute my medication when on a road trip as well. I re-label each bag with a day of the week and then know which one to take each morning. Of course there are actual day-of-the-week pill dispensers but this is a great way to recycle the bags you collect.
  • When more Canadian companies start releasing their products in glass, choose those products to show your support for more sustainable packaging. Glass is a very eco-friendly packaging.
  • Some dispensaries allow refills of used cannabis containers, so ask your local dispensary if they offer this service. Obviously the silly laws surrounding legal cannabis in Canada will prevent you from bringing your own container but if you are lucky enough to still frequent an unlicensed brick and mortar store, definitely bring come with your own jar. Not only will your weed thank you, but you also get to help the environment this way.
  • You don’t have to buy several disposable versions of the same product. If you find that you like a certain product, find the reusable version. It may cost a bit more but it will save you from buying a new disposable vape pen every couple of weeks.

Final Thoughts

While the legalization of cannabis has been undeniably positive, it is also adding to the burden on the environment. Tons and tons of extra waste that come from licensed producer’s cannabis packaging is being dumped in landfills. Although some steps are already being taken to lessen the impact, it can’t be denied that we still have a long way to go.

The reality is that the entire industry as a whole creates some degree of waste. While MOM’s like JC use much less packaging than LP’s, even we have no alternative for sending cannabis. At this time, ziplock plastic bags are the best option in terms of keeping cannabis cured and safely transporting flower. As the industry shifts and searches for alternative methods of transportation, so will MOM’s packaging.

As consumers, we have to be responsible users. That means caring not only for yourself but for others and the environment as well. The success in reducing pollution is a collective effort of society, and we all have the capacity to help. We only have one planet to call home, and we have to protect it if we want to live.

EDIT: As I prepared to publish this, Tweed, one of the largest cannabis manufacturers in the world, announced a new recycling program. You can now recycle your used packaging at many dispensaries. This is incredible progress and admirable to see a big company step up like this.

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