Colorado Marijuana Packaging & Labeling Rules: What’s Coming?

Flowchart of new packaging and labeling rule.

Flowchart of new packaging and labeling rule.

As a Colorado cannabis industry regulatory trainer and compliance consultant, I hear a lot of complaints.  Topping the list are that Colorado's marijuana regulations are ever-changing and overly complex.  As written, many rules appear to be subject to interpretation, and the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) is slow to respond to an ever increasing number of industry inquiries.

Well, I take a different view.  I believe that the MED has been outstanding in keeping up with industry growth and innovation.  Who could have predicted with the initial passage of Colorado's cannabis legislation, the staggering expansion of the industry, let alone the constant flood of new products and production processes available today?  What's more is that few should complain.  If the Federal Government had their way, there would be no marijuana industry.

I believe in giving credit where credit is due.   In my view, the State of Colorado, and more specifically the MED, has done a tremendous job in establishing and maintaining the regulatory framework to allow the industry to not only grow but to flourish.   The natural and unfortunate consequence of that success however, is the continual need for oftentimes complex regulatory change.

One of the more important areas of marijuana law is that of packaging and labeling of marijuana and marijuana products.   Generally speaking, marijuana products must be transferred to consumers in packaging that is resealable, child-resistant, and not transparentPackaging is meant to protect children, teens, and unsuspecting adults from accidentally eating marijuana products.  The use of compliant packaging is an important storage and safety consideration.

Colorado's marijuana rules may be found within the Code of Colorado Regulations  1 CCR 212-1 (Medical) and  1 CCR 212-2 (Retail).  Most current medical marijuana packaging and labeling requirements may be found within the M 1000 series of rules.  And, most current retail marijuana packaging and labeling requirements may be found within the R 1000 series.  

During the period of January 1, 2018 to June 30, 2018 marijuana businesses have the option of complying  with the current 1000 series of rules or with the newly established 1000-1 series.  During this six month transitional period, marijuana businesses must be fully compliant with at least one of those two packaging and labeling series.  Beginning July 1, 2018, however, the 1000 series of rules is repealed, and compliance to the newly established 1000-1 series will become mandatory.

So, what's the difference?

First, it's important to note that the bulk of these rules remain the same.  For example, both series prohibit packaging and labeling directed toward consumers under the age of 21.  For instance, both series prohibit the use of cartoons, caricatures, and use of the word "candy" or "candies."

At the most elemental level, the labeling requirements in these rules apply to all containers immediately holding marijuana and marijuana product.   A primary difference between the two series is that rules in the new 1000-1 series have been simplified and reorganized for better comprehension and ease of use.  The MED seeks to minimize, to the extent practicable, the burden of labeling compliance to marijuana licensees.

Series 1001-1 rules contain the minimum packaging and labeling requirements prior to transfer to another marijuana business or establishment.   Series 1002-1 rules contain the minimum packaging and labeling requirements prior to transfer to a final consumer or patient.  And Series 1003-1 rules contain additional labeling requirements for the product's intended use prior to transfer to a consumer or patient - intended uses being Inhalation, Oral Consumption, or Skin and Body products.  The labeling requirements of series 1003-1 are in addition to, not in lieu of, the labeling requirements in series 1002-1.

Series 1001-1 rules identify information that is required on all labels to provide information necessary for the MED to regulate the cultivation, production, and sale of Marijuana, Marijuana Concentrate, and Marijuana Product by and between marijuana businesses.  Series 1002-1 rules identify information that is required on all labels to allow consumers to make informed decisions, and for first responders in the event of accidental ingestion, over ingestion, or allergic reaction.   And finally, Series 1003-1 rules define additional labeling requirements for Marijuana, Marijuana Concentrate, and/or  Marijuana Product, based on its intended use, prior to transfer to a consumer or patient.

The introduction of these rules represent yet another regulatory hurdle for Colorado marijuana businesses to overcome.  But in many respects, particularly for the additional labeling requirements based on the products intended use, that's a good thing.  These rules bring the packaging and labeling requirements of marijuana and marijuana products much more up to par with those of most other main-stream products.  As such, these rules should be viewed as a positive step forward for the industry.

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