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The Feels Ep. 07: Cannabis Packaging & Labeling

 February 19, 2022  Written by David Melnick
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Dr. Bex and Jeff discuss cannabis packaging and labeling at Feel State Florissant, recorded live on 12/13/21.

0:00 Tongue Twisters
1:10 Welcome!
1:28 Regulations on Cannabis Packaging
1:50 Missouri DHSS Cannabis Packaging Regulations
2:28 What's deli-style cannabis flower?
3:02 Pros and Cons of Opaque Cannabis Packaging
4:00 About Mylar Plastic Packaging
4:42 Looking at Missouri brands' packaging
5:44 The Invention of Zip-Lock Bags
6:20 Pros and Cons of Glass Jar Packaging
7:27 Paper Cannabis Packaging
7:40 Issues around recycling vape carts and lithium batteries
8:15 Benefits of Vape Carts
9:45 Missouri DHSS Cannabis Labeling Requirements
10:28 Understanding THCA and CBDA on a label
11:56 ALL Ingredients must be listed on a cannabis label
12:20 "Best if used by" versus "Sell by" dates
12:58 Questions from the audience
13:54 Are there sugar-free gummies for the diabetics?
14:37 Why don't more companies use paper, metal, or hemp in packaging?
15:35 Why isn't there any consistency in how information appears on a label?
17:05 What specials do you have going on?
18:48 Can you explain 1:1 and 2:1 labeling?
19:28 Why do some edibles display indica/sativa?
21:03 Why are live resin cartridges more expensive?
22:22 Where are terpenes listed on the label?
26:06 How Jeff uses Cannabis as Medicine
26:54 How reliable are strain names on the label?
28:17 Why do companies not list Type 1, 2, 3 on the label?
29:08 Any edibles with CBN or melatonin?
30:18 What's your favorite thing on the shelf right now?

Prefer to read this conversation about cannabis labeling and packaging? Check out the transcript below!

BEX: Good evening y’all. I’m Dr. Bex and with me as always is Jeff. Every Monday round this time Jeff and I will discuss a different cannabis topic. Today’s topics are the different types of cannabis packaging and the labels affixed to them.

JEFF: Cannabis comes in many, many forms. Those many forms require different types of cannabis packaging. Many types. And unfortunately, almost all of them are partially made from plastic.

BEX: There are a few glass options, but by and large, cannabis comes encased in plastic. That’s because cannabis has to come in packaging that a child can not access.

JEFF: According to the Missouri Department Of Health and Senior Services, “Any marijuana or marijuana-infused products packaged for retail sale, before delivery to a dispensary, must be packaged in opaque, re-sealable packaging designed or constructed to be significantly difficult for children under five years of age to open, but not normally difficult for adults to use properly.” An example of that would be the flower from Flora Farms. By the way we just got back in stock from Flora the chemovars Blue Dream, Chem 4 and Cobalt Fire. 

BEX: Opaque and resealable, childproof packaging goes for any flower served deli style, too. Deli style means loose flower is delivered in big bags to a dispensary then transferred to large glass jars. To be sold to a patient, the flower has to be weighed, then placed in opaque packaging that is difficult for a five year old to open. Any edibles or concentrates must be packaged for retail by the infused-products manufacturer before transfer to a dispensary.

JEFF: So, the packaging has to be opaque. That means it can not be seen through. That offers plusses and minuses. On the plus side, it cuts down on the curiosity factor should a parent be irresponsible enough to leave their medicine in a place that is easily accessible to a child. On the minus side, the packaging is emblazoned with the words marijuana in several places so any child that can read will know what they are looking at.

BEX: On the plus side, opaque packaging prevents light from oxidizing the product, thereby preserving its freshness longer. On the minus side, you can’t see the product. So, you have to trust your budtender when they tell you the bagged eighth you are buying has some good sized nugs in it. The cannabis packaging may also be made from heavy duty plastic that even a child could tell you has no chance of decomposing in their lifetime.

JEFF: Some of that heavy duty plastic is called mylar. A lot of the flower sold in Missouri comes in mylar bags. Again, this type of packaging comes with pluses and minuses. On the plus side, mylar traps odor like no other. Seriously, you can’t smell a thing. You can also print graphics directly on the bag. But there ends the plusses because mylar never decomposes. I’ll say that again. Mylar never decomposes. So when you’ve finished that eighth, maybe not throw the bag in the trash. That means you’ll have to start storing them in your home until someone figures out how to recycle them. Not convenient, I know. But better than putting them in the trash.

BEX: So, the packaging has to be opaque. It also has to be resealable but hard to open for a child five years old or younger. So, let's take a look at some of the packaging from products we sell here at Feel State. We’re gonna start with those pesky mylar bags. First thing we need to do is remove the top portion of the bag. This can be a challenge because tearing at the notches can sometimes tear the bag more than it should. The easiest thing to do is to cut the top off from notch to notch.

JEFF: Now that we have the top removed, we have to separate the opening. This means fumbling with our thumbs to get the lips of the bag open. When we finally do, we discover a thin strip of green plastic. That strip must be held against one side of the bag before the zipper can be pulled open. Fun fact, Doc: the ziploc bag was invented in 1950 by Börge Madsen.

BEX: Wow. Now, some of these mylar bags do not have a green strip but a rib that runs the length of the zipper. That forces the patient to use their thumbnail to hold the rib to one side. On the plus side, this is fantastic security as young thumbnails would have a difficult time finding the rib. On the minus side, thumbnails come in different lengths. A patient’s hands could also have tremors or be arthritic. Which is why the next package could be an easier option.

JEFF: Doc’s talkin’ about glass jars with plastic lids. The jars, like the bags, must also be opaque, and the lids require the kind of downward pressure your average five year old can not muster. If pressure isn’t applied, the lid simply spins round and round counterclockwise. These jar and lid combinations come in different styles…and levels of opaqueness. On the plus side, the jars can be reused again and again for anything from office supplies to spices to whatever you can find people doing with them on Etsy.

BEX: On the minus side, we’re talking plastic lids that take who knows how long to break down. Also, the child resistance mechanism in the lid won’t work forever, so you might end up with an empty glass jar you can’t take the top off of. Now, just because plastic dominates the market doesn't mean it's the only option.

JEFF: Right, Doc. There are products on the market that are packaged in paper like vape carts, but inside that box is product packaged in glass, metal, plastic and sometimes ceramic. And I’m gonna guess most people throw them in the trash when they’re done with them. That’s because traditional recycling facilities have no method to extract the desired materials from an empty cart. Not to mention no one is recycling the lithium batteries from disposable vapes. If you're wondering why that may be important, just google the Morris, Illinois lithium battery fire that lasted from this past June into July.

BEX: So, what are the pluses for vape carts? Well, they are incredibly convenient. Especially if you're going out for the night with just a clutch purse. They fit comfortably in a front or back pocket and changing a cart is as easy as screwing in a lightbulb. The biggest plus is the smell, or lack thereof. Because you are exhaling vapor and not smoke, there is waaaaay less odor.

JEFF: You know what else has way less odor, Doc? Keef beverages in a twelve ounce aluminum can. This can of Blue Razzberry keef had 23 milligrams of THC and has a really interesting child resistance mechanism for the opening. If you look at the top of a can, you’ll see a black, plastic pull tab with a thin, white, security strip. Popping the top breaks the strip and opens the tear line on the mouth piece. Slide the pull tab away from the can and you can medicate. When you’ve taken your optimal dose, slide the plastic tab back into its original position and press down to lock the tab in place. That will preserve the remaining carbonation in the can.

BEX: Well, I think that covers the materials cannabis comes packaged in: plastic, paper, glass and aluminum. Let's move on to labeling. According to the DHSS, labels have to have the following information, in the following order. One–the weight of the cannabis. For flower and concentrates, the weight has to be listed in grams. The weight of infused products has to be listed in milligrams of THC.

JEFF: Two, the labels must also list dosage amounts, instructions for use, and estimated length of time the dosage will have an effect. Then we get to the tricky third part. The label has to indicate the THC, THCA, CBD, CBDA and CBN concentrations. THCA and CBDA are the acidic forms of the cannabinoids. They are also non-psychoactive. So those numbers aren’t the best to use for estimating the kind of an experience you might have. THC, CBD and CBN are better bellwethers. Most of the time.

BEX: By that, Jeff means sometimes a label will list impossibly low numbers of THC and a reasonable sounding percentage for the acidic forms. For example, we have a chemovar that lists the THC percentage as zero point one two two, and the THCA percentage as twenty eight point three one five. Does that mean that the chemovar is really only zero point eleven percent THC. Yes and no.

JEFF: Sometimes, when a batch of flower is curing, THCA can convert to THC in small amounts. Those amounts will show up when the batch is tested, and they must be included on the label. That leaves patients to believe that the acidic percentages are the true bellwether. Not so much. When you decarb, or combust the flower, you can presume the THC percentages will be a few percentage points lower than the acidic form. Same goes for CBD and CBN.

BEX: Other information that has to appear on the label are all active and inactive ingredients. That means if you have a savory blend of popcorn seasoning, all ingredients must be listed. You can’t just say “proprietary blend” or “spices”. If you're buying a bag of flower, you can expect the label to also list the cultivating facility. If you’re getting an edible, the label will list the name of the infused-product manufacturer. Finally, the label has to have a “best if used by” date. 

JEFF: Which is different from a “Sell By” date. A sell by date is the last day a product should remain on the shelves before being pulled and disposed of. A best by date is the last day the product will have it’s best flavor and quality. It’s still fine to consume. It just might not taste as fresh as when it went in the packaging.

DR. BEX: badaboombadabamdabam

Questions from the Audience

  • Why don’t more companies use paper or metal in their packaging? Like, why is no one using hemp?
  • Why isn’t there any consistency in the way the information appears on the label?
  • What specials do you have going on at Feel State?
  • Can you explain the difference between the Wana gummies that display 2:1, 1:1 on the label?
  • Why do some edibles display indica or sativa on them? Is there a difference when it’s in edible form?
  • Some of your cartridges say live resin on the label. Why are they more expensive?
  • Where are terpenes listed on the label?
  • How reliable are strain names on the label?
  • Why do companies not yet list type 1, type 2, type 3 on the label? Any type 2 or type 3 products? 
  • Any edibles with CBN and Melatonin or other cannabinoids?

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