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What’s the deal with cannabis packaging?

Making sense of cannabis packaging

If you’ve purchased recreational cannabis in Canada since legalization, you’ve no doubt noticed the packaging: it’s bulky, nondescript and minimally branded – but there’s a reason why.

One of the cornerstones of cannabis legalization is the goal of keeping it away from children. To make sure the product isn’t marketed in a way that’s enticing to youth, and to make sure it’s not easily accessible, Health Canada created packaging regulations that licensed producers have to meet before selling their products.

However, Health Canada does not dictate the exact design of the packaging. This allows producers to include some of their unique brand elements, as long as they follows the regulations. That explains why packaging can vary by brand. There are different types of packaging for different types of products, too, so pre-rolls, oils and dried cannabis come in a variety of containers.

Packaging restrictions

According to Health Canada, the container that cannabis is enclosed in must:

  • be opaque or translucent;
  • be one uniform colour (although the interior surface may be a different colour than the exterior);
  • prevent contamination;
  • keep the cannabis dry;
  • not emit a scent or sound;
  • not display any image;
  • have some kind of security feature to show it hasn’t been opened already;
  • be child-resistant;
  • and not contain more than 30 grams of cannabis.

Mailing regulations

Further, if a licensed seller sends cannabis through Canada Post, the package it’s shipped in must be tamper-proof and odour-proof, and no branding is allowed on the outer packaging. In short, you shouldn’t be able to tell there’s cannabis inside.

Content requirements

Health Canada regulations also mandate what information needs to be included. That’s why on each package you’ll find:

  • a description of the product;
  • the THC and CBD content;
  • a list of potential allergens;
  • a label including the licensed processor’s contact information, as well as the product’s lot number, packaging date and recommended storage conditions;
  • a “universal symbol” indicating this is a cannabis product (it looks like a stop sign);
  • the message “Keep out of reach of children”;
  • and a health warning, like on cigarette packages, which appears inside a yellow box on the label.

Branding regulations

There are packaging requirements for logos and branding, too:

  • logos must be a single colour;
  • brand names and logos are subject to size restrictions (the brand name on the label has to be smaller or the same size as the type on the health warning message);
  • the label can feature only one brand element besides the brand name, subject to size and colour restrictions;
  • and no fluorescent or metallic flourished can be added to the branding.

Don’t expect any fancy details like embossing, heat-activated ink or fold-out panels – Health Canada prohibits those, too.

Packaging materials

Since legalization, some of the conversation on social media has revolved around the sheer amount of packaging required for purchasing cannabis. Since the packaging needs to be child-proof and tamper-proof, and since the packaging and labels have to be specific sizes, it can require a lot of materials. The good news is, most of this packaging can be recycled.

With all these restrictions, it can be difficult to distinguish between brands and product types based on packaging. If you have any questions about Emerald products or packaging, feel free to reach out to our customer care team.

P.S. We’re always looking for ways to make our packaging and products more exciting, so if you’re a registered medical patient with Emerald, keep your eyes peeled for a surprise in your upcoming deliveries!


Emerald Health Therapeutics is a Health Canada Licensed Producer of cannabis – view all our products.


Emerald Health Therapeutics

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