Stop Signs and Health Warnings and THC Content! Oh My! In Time for 420, Health Canada Releases First Look at Possible Packaging and Labelling Provisions

April 20, 2018

By Amanda Branch

Health Canada has released the first look at what the packaging and labelling provisions of the proposed regulations might look like. The Cannabis Act is still making its way through Parliament so the proposals aren’t final, but they do give a sense of what recreational cannabis packaging will look like – and it’s not dope.

On March 19, 2018, Health Canada released the Proposed Approach to the Regulation of Cannabis: Summary of Comments Received During the Public Consultation (the “Report”), which summarizes the feedback Health Canada received following the 60-day public consultation on the proposed approach to developing regulations under the Cannabis Act. It appears that tobacco-style packaging may be required for this new product category. Additionally, like alcoholic beverages, cannabis will be sold under regulated conditions.

The Report is meant to give the industry as much information as possible to start preparing for the implementation of the new legal framework and addresses several elements including licenses, permits and authorizations; security clearances; cannabis products; cannabis for medical purposes; and health products and cosmetics with cannabis.

With respect to packaging and labelling, Health Canada made several proposals. In addition to the restrictions set out in the proposed Cannabis Act (discussed in previous articles here and here) which must be complied with, the proposed packaging and labelling requirements from Health Canada would also require compliance with the following:

  • A standardized cannabis symbol (a red stop sign with a cannabis leaf and the letters THC) would need to appear on every label;
  • Mandatory health warning messages would need to appear on every label in a large yellow box;
  • Only one other brand element (in addition to the brand name) can be displayed – for example, a slogan, logo or text. If it is a text element, the font must be no larger than the font of the health warning message, and it must be a single, uniform colour. If it is an image or logo, it cannot be larger than the standardized cannabis symbol. It is prohibited to display any other image or graphic;
  • Label and package backgrounds would need to be a single, uniform colour (inside and outside), cannot use fluorescent or metallic colours and must contrast with the colours of the standardized cannabis symbol and the background of the health warning messages;
  • Labels and packaging cannot have any coating (i.e. glossy coating), embossing (raised or recessed relief images), texture, foil, cut-outs or peel-away labels;
  • Any over-wrap must be clear; and
  • It would be prohibited to include any insert in a package.

Further, cannabis products (other than cannabis plants or cannabis seeds) would have to be packaged in an immediate container that is tamper-evident, child-resistant, prevents contamination and keeps the cannabis dry. The immediate container would have to be opaque or translucent.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor tweeted some of the design rules the government is considering:

Draft regulations will not be pre-published and the final regulations will be published as soon as possible following Royal Assent of the Cannabis Act. Legislation to legalize recreational marijuana is currently before the Senate, which has agreed to hold a final vote on the bill by June 7, 2018.

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