Cannabis packaging: A persistent pain point in the industry

The director of West Coast Cannabis Stores recently shared shocking, albeit not surprising, revelations surrounding just how much packaging cannabis products come with in Canada.

Jordan Thomson’s analysis discovered that one LP was using 116 grams of plastic for just 3.5 grams of cannabis. Another used 74 grams of packaging for the same amount of product, and another, 66.

Anecdotally, we’ve heard for months from consumers, patients and retailers alike that the packaging is excessive but now, the numbers have been crunched and it’s mind-blowing.

The cons are obvious.

It’s not environmentally friendly. It’s costly. And we’re hearing that child-resistant packaging is proving troublesome for some medical patients who are unable to open the restrictive packaging.

All of these are serious issues, and government has recognized that. They just don’t know how to resolve it.

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The conversation needs to continue. The dialogue must go on until solutions can be achieved, particularly when considering the impending second wave of legalization this fall and the uptick in product sales that will inevitably ensue.

It’s particularly curious that nothing is being done on this front when considering the fact that the Metro Vancouver region is zeroing in on CO2 emissions with a sharp focus on cannabis companies.

There’s a strong conversation going on surrounding cannabis farming, and the steps and regulatory measures that need to be implemented to ensure these operations don’t negatively impact the environment.

The packaging issue is just as serious an issue, and demands the same attention, discussion and focus of government.

A recent Growth Op article described the packaging conundrum as “excessive, wasteful, overkill and harmful.”

The criticism is valid.

Plastic is being overused, and we’re seeing material used that is difficult to recycle at all.

As Growth Op pointed out, this is the same government that recently pledged to ban single-use plastic.

So why are there strict regulations surrounding packaging, when even LPs argue this makes is difficult to package products in environmentally friendly ways?

Health Canada communications advisor Andre Gagnon said in the Growth Op article that the government “welcomes licensed processors to use innovative and environmentally sound packaging approaches, provided the requirements in the regulations are satisfied.”

But we argue the regulations are too strict, and if they must remain, the government should at the table with proposed alternatives to help companies - and ultimately the environment - in this blossoming industry.

Cannabis packaging recycling initiatives have popped up, from companies such as TerraCycle and Tweed, but more are needed and ultimately the government needs to be part of the solution.

We believe innovation is a big piece of the puzzle, coupled with buy-in from provincial governments on recycling programs, as well as tweaks to packaging regulations.

We all need to work together to tackle the packaging pains now, for the betterment of all.