In order to stay compliant with Oregon’s retail and medical marijuana programs, you have to pay close attention to the packaging and labeling laws. If you don't, it can put you in a "sticky situation".
The state must approve all of your packaging and labeling before the products can be offered on your shop’s shelves. The most important thing to remember is that your packaging and labeling cannot appeal to minors or children in any way.
Below is a breakdown of the laws regarding marijuana labeling and packaging regulations in simple terms. The laws are different for each category, so each category is broken down for better explanations. The most recent changes to Oregon marijuana packaging laws took place on October 1, 2016.
Marijuana business owners are responsible for making sure that every item leaving their establishment is properly contained, including proper exit packaging. Packaging approved before October 1, 2016 may no longer remain on approved packaging lists. In this case, new packaging would have to be submitted for re-approval.
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) has set forth standard requirements for all retail marijuana packages (as of July 2016). All packaging has to be child-resistant. It must also protect the product from potential contamination or exposure to harmful/toxic substances.
In terms of child-resistant packaging, there are three types accepted:
Continual Use – Items intended for multiple uses must be in a plain container with a resealable top that is child-resistant. Continual or multi-use items include topical ointments/creams/salves, extracts, concentrates, dry flower and edibles.
Single Use – Packaging loses child-resistance factor once open, ideal for single servings/doses of marijuana and marijuana products.
Exit Packaging – Once your customer selects a product and purchases it, it must be put in a secondary package as it leaves your shop. Exit packaging has to include the child-resistant package the marijuana product is in and must be child-resistant itself.
An exception to the marijuana packaging laws in Oregon is when you are purchasing plants or seeds. These products do not require child-resistant packaging, but the packaging itself still has to undergo the approval process.
Small Business Transport Packaging
The OLCC has put a few safeguards in place for marijuana packaging laws for business transportation of products. All shipping containers between OLCC licensees must have a visible UID tag on the label. This makes it okay to transport products from one business to another.
Some of the stipulations of the law include:
Vehicles transporting properly packaged marijuana from business-to-business must have alarm systems
Temperature control systems must be available on all transport vehicles
A licensee must operate the vehicle
The transport vehicle must not display that it is a marijuana industry company
Products must be locked at all times during transport
Insurance at or above Oregon requirements is required
The regulations regarding packaging and business-to-business transport are rather cut and dry, as you can see.
Small Container Packaging Rules
Items that are too small to have a full label placed on them must have a label attached to or placed onto the package itself. What this means is if you’re selling a single tinctures and single serve candies/edibles, you’ll place the item in an additional package, place the label on it and then place that item in the proper exit packaging.
The OLCC has updated its marijuana labeling law to require a visible display of the Oregon Universal Symbol for medical and recreational marijuana. The symbol is the same, with the exception of medical marijuana including an “M” on it as well. Approved labels before October 1, 2016 not containing the universal symbol are invalid and cannot be used.
It is easy to understand what your label requires as the OLCC has created a label checklist (found on pages 16 through 22 of the Packaging and Labeling Guide) to help all retail marijuana store owners remain compliant with the marijuana labeling law as written.
The labeling requirements set by the OLCC are as follows:
Visible display of the universal symbol, 0.48-inches high by 0.35-inches wide is the minimum size allowed on labels
Product name and category
“M” universal symbol on all medical marijuana product labels, no less than 0.35-inches in diameter
Laboratory used, batch testing number, testing date
In some cases, labels are not required by the OLCC on marijuana and marijuana products. If you are a caregiver transporting marijuana items to patients, the items do not require the regulations in the newly established marijuana labeling law that went into effect on October 1, 2016. You must be delivering marijuana to patients showing you as their caregiver.
The other exception to the rule is growers transporting any type of usable marijuana product or immature plants to patients. You have to be listed as the patient’s grower, or grower for a patient’s caregiver. You must also be listed as the caregiver’s grower.
The OLCC does allow for generic labeling to be used on packages. These labels do not require pre-approval. They may only contain necessary product information. You cannot include graphics of any kind, logos or images/photos on generic labels according to the marijuana labeling law.
Small Container Labeling Exceptions
Small items such as vape pens, vape pen cartridges, shatter, wax and small single serve items don’t have enough surface space for a full label. The OLCC adopted exceptions to the marijuana labeling law to address the issue. In this case, you have to include a full label, either as a sticker, hangtag or other affixed method onto an additional child-resistant package containing the product.
The package holding the product must contain the following on the labels:
Font size of at least 8. Accepted fonts: Arial, Helvetica and Times New Roman only
Display panel section including product name, Oregon universal symbol and net weight
Your establishment’s name and registrant number
OLCC licensees must use a package unique identification number. OHA registrants must include batch/process lot numbers
OLCC required warnings
*Note: Registrants are licensed medical marijuana dispensary owners. Licensees are OLCC approved recreational marijuana store owners.
It is recommended to submit small container labels and the package they’d be attached to together for approval. This shows the OLCC how the package will look with the label, and approves two items at once.
What Isn’t Allowed on Labels
The OLCC provides a complete list of items that are prohibited from being present on labels. Although many growers in Oregon may be growing organically, labels cannot say “organic”. Marijuana is still illegal federally and all items require FDA approval to be able to legally use the word “organic” on packages and labels.
The short list of what isn’t allowed on labels includes:
No claims of products being gluten-free
Unsubstantiated by scientific research health claims
No designs resembling toys
No characters recognizable by children
Nothing that appeals to minors, including cartoons
No photos or minors, even adolescent cartoon characters
Essentially, the OLCC wants labels to contain pertinent information and not be attractive to those that should not be in possession of marijuana (minors under the age of 21). Recreational marijuana is legal in Oregon for adults ages 21 and older, so anyone under age 21 is considered to be a minor for this purpose.
Closing Tips Regarding Marijuana Packaging and Labeling in Oregon
To help your packaging and labeling processes go faster, and gain more approvals, consider adopting a standardized packaging procedure for similar items. This means that the only thing different is the actual product name, but all packages maintain the same design. It also helps cut down on packaging costs.
Consider using symbols rather than a cartoon or human character, as most characters will be rejected. You can also speak with a compliance attorney in Oregon for advice before submitting new packaging and labels for approval to ensure that they meet the guidelines in advance.