Are You Compliant? A Guide to California’s Cannabis Product Packaging Rules for 2018

Are You Compliant? A Guide to California’s Cannabis Product Packaging Rules for 2018

Are You Compliant? A Guide to California’s Cannabis Product Packaging Rules for 2018

Author Bertram Joyner
Published May 22, 2018

Guide to California’s Cannabis Product Packaging Rules for 2018 NOTE: A few minor updates were made as of May 18, 2018. Those updates appear in the text below, defined by text that is bold and underlined. These emergency regulations will remain valid until July 1, 2018 at which point they will have been reassessed. You can read the full official legal language here but we break it down and make it easy to understand below. Last week, we spoke about the importance of child resistant packaging to California’s regulations for cannabis packaging. Most of California is already selling recreational cannabis but major cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco are still putting the finishing touches on their framework. This gives you the perfect opportunity to familiarize yourself with the guidelines the Golden State is putting in place to make sure that the industry keeps chugging along without a hitch.

The Importance of Child-Resistant Marijuana Packaging

If you missed our story about California’s child resistant packaging regulations, we’re about to hit you up with the Cliff’s Notes. Child-resistant packaging is the centerpiece of California’s cannabis regulations and rightfully so. Prohibitionists often fall back on the unfounded idea that the legalization of marijuana for adult use will impact children (though numerous studies have actually shown a decrease in teen use following legalization in states such as Colorado). The health of children is paramount on both sides of this political fence and California’s AB-110 makes that clear with a slew of airtight restrictions aimed at protecting children while allowing responsible use of recreational marijuana for adults over the age of 21. These rules have been further clarified by the California government in a detailed document that is set to serve as current yet potentially temporary emergency cannabis regulations.

Certification is Everything

non compliant packaging can be placed in state compliant exit bags like pinch n slides
AB-110 stipulates that all marijuana packaging (including pop top bottles and exit packaging as well as other forms of cannabis packaging) must be certified child-resistant. The word “certified” is crucial here. If you’ve been selling products from your dispensary that you’ve deemed child-resistant, you’re still going to run into some very expensive problems if that packaging hasn’t been certified. Luckily, there are a myriad of certified child-resistant packaging options available, such as Pinch ‘n’ Slide exit bags, Mylar bags, Leaflocker boxes, and pop top bottles that have passed inspection. If you’re not using packaging that has been certified as child-resistant, invest immediately!

Using Mylar Exit Bags as a Child-Resistant Catch All

One trick that a lot of dispensaries are turning to is using child-resistant Mylar bags as a catch-all safety net. Say you have a product in packaging that has not been certified child-resistant. You can simply pop that product into a Mylar exit bag and presto: you are now compliant with the state of California’s regulations. The Pinch ‘n’ Slide is particularly adept for this operation as it easily reseals into child-resistant packaging. This obviously saves dispensaries a lot of money and stress.

The Many Ways to Make Your Packaging Tamper Evident

shrink bands one of several methods for tamper evident compliant packaging

California is also placing an emphasis on tamper evident cannabis packaging. There are a variety of methods used to make packaging tamper evident but one of the most popular is the tamper evident seal. Likewise, many cannabis products employ the use of shrink bands to meet strict tamper evident regulations. Even Mylar bags that are heat sealed are an option. Regardless of which method you choose, California will require your packaging to feature a safeguard that proves the product was not accessed prior to purchase.

The Two Required Panels for California Cannabis Products

All marijuana products sold in the state of California will be required to clearly present two labels affixed to the packaging. These labels are called the “Primary Panel” and the “Informational Panel”. So what kind of information do you need to provide on these panels?

Primary Panel:

  • The product’s ID/name with text relatively sized to the most prominent text on the packaging. (This may seem like it has wiggle room but err on the side of caution. When in doubt, bigger is better.)
  • The exact phrase “cannabis-infused” must appear directly above the product ID/name in bold text in a font size even larger than that used for the product ID/name.
  • The state-instituted THC symbol must appear. (see below for specifics on this symbol)
  • The product’s net weight and/or volume.
  • The product’s content of both THC and CBD, written in units of milligrams per package.
  • The product’s content per serving of both THC and CBD, written in units of milligrams per serving.
  • The font size of the primary panel must be at font size 6 or greater while remaining in relation to the size of the panel itself as well as the cannabis product packaging or container.

Informational Panel:

  • The name and contact phone number or website of the licensed manufacturer of the marijuana product.
  • Date that the product was manufactured and packaged.
  • The following wording must appear verbatim in bold print:


  • Products intended to be sold for medical use as well as products containing more than 1,000 mg of THC per package must include the statement "FOR MEDICAL USE ONLY."
  • A full list of all product ingredients in descending order as constituted by weight or volume.
  • Any relevant instructions for usage, including how to apply or consume the product, as well as any potential preparation required before use.
  • Clearly display the product’s date of expiration, “use by” date, and/or “best by” date.
  • Clearly display the product’s unique identifier (UID) and, if applicable, batch number.
  • The font size of the Informational Panel must be at font size 6 or greater while remaining in relation to the size of the primary panel as well as the cannabis product packaging or container. However, in the event that there is insufficient space on the packaging to present all of the required information at a minimum size 6 font, the following exception is permitted: The above warning statement must be included on the packaging at a minimum of size 6 font and the packaging must then include a supplemental label that provides the remaining Informational Panel requirements in a minimum of size 8 font.

Keeping Your Edibles State-Compliant

marijuana products and packaging considered appealing to children is banned under california regulations
Edibles have their own product-specific regulations that require strict adherence. In addition to the label requirements above, marijuana edibles will need to include the following information on the Informational Panel when being sold in the state of California:
  • Listing of all product ingredients, measured by weight or volume and sorted from greatest to least.
  • In the event that your cannabis edible includes any ingredients, additives, colorings, flavoring, etc. that may be deemed a major food allergen or contain a major food allergen, you must state these specific allergen-related ingredients  behind the word “CONTAINS.”
  • All artificial food colorings must be clearly named.
  • The product’s sodium, sugar, carbohydrates, and total fat per serving, as measured in grams.

You also won’t be able to sell edibles in transparent packaging. Going forward, all edibles will need to be placed in opaque packaging.

Details About California’s Mandatory THC Label

California state instituted THC label is required for all cannabis product packagingThe California state-specific THC label that will be required to emblazon all marijuana packaging going forward has its own sets of requirements.
  • The label’s color and shape must exactly replicate that shown in the graphic.
  • Label will be sized at a minimum of 0.5 inch by 0.5 inch.
  • Label must be printed clearly.
  • Label must be featured prominently.
  • Since prominence of the symbol is paramount, dark packaging will need to print the symbol on a contrasting color or the symbol will need to be outlined in a contrasting color so that it remains clear and visible.

Avoid Anything That Could Be Deemed Marketing to Children

Gone are the days of stoner cartoons and marijuana edibles shaped like gummy bears. California is expected to strictly enforce the rule that packaging cannot imitate any product that may be deemed attractive to children. Even fonts and phrases that may be deemed as alluring to children are off limits. In short, you’ll find no Puff the Magic Dragon in California. As of May 18, 2018, cannabis marketing is prohibited from using the images or likenesses of any individuals under the age of 18 years. 

Other Information That Can't Be Added to a Label

  • False claims that a product was grown in a specific California county or produced from a product grown in a specific California county unless all of the cannabis used was grown in the named county.
  • The name of a county in California when the cannabis product was not grown within the named county.
  • Any information that could be deemed false or misleading (health-related statements and claims may incur extra scrutiny).

 The California Compliance Checklist

For your convenience, we’ve provided a brief summary of key points to remember when designing the packaging for your cannabis products for sale in the state of California. Some of the bullet points here have not been expanded on in depth above so it’s definitely worth it to double-check this list to make sure you have a full understanding of California’s requirements for marijuana product packaging.
  • All marijuana packaging is required to be certified as child-resistant – this includes pop top bottles and exit packaging as well as other forms of cannabis packaging.
  • Product must feature tamper-evident safeguards (this means that the product must be protected from possible contamination).
  • If your product has multiple servings (as many do) you will need to be providing packaging that can be re-sealed after being opened.
  • Product must feature 2 labels: the Primary Panel and the Informational Panel.
  • Additional information must be supplied for edibles.
  • The California-instituted THC-label must appear on all marijuana packaging.
  • Packaging cannot be deemed alluring or attractive to children in any way including mimicking pre-existing packaging deemed attractive to children.
  • Edibles must be sold in opaque containers.
  • Exit bags must be opaque.
  • Product must be in final form before being sent to the distributor.
  • Cannabis products cannot exceed 1,000 mg of THC if they are being sold as an edible. However, non-edible cannabis products may exceed 1,000 mg of THC but no more than 2,000 mg of THC per package. These non-edible cannabis products must feature a label stating "FOR MEDICAL USE ONLY."
  • If your product contains more than 0.5% alcohol volume but is not an alcoholic beverage, the pack containing the product cannot exceed 2 fluid ounces and must include a calibrated liquid dropper or similar measuring tool.
Knowing California’s regulations for cannabis product packaging is a requirement for any business, large or small, hoping to benefit from the projected wealth of profit to be had in the Golden State’s Green Rush. With most of the rules aimed at protecting children, you’re most likely following 90% of them anyway. The rules are likely to be tweaked here and there in the foreseeable future but knowing the rules now is vital to having both feet on the ground when those changes come. Fully acquaint yourselves with these guidelines and you’ll be back to cannabusiness as usual.
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