Impending Canadian Cannabis Legalization has Implications For Labels

Impending Canadian Cannabis Legalization has Implications For Labels

It's been well-established for some time that Canada would most likely legalize cannabis use for recreational purposes, but the government hesitated initiating formal legalization due to differences in regulations among the nation's provinces. However, according to the National Post, that has changed, with the formal date set for Oct. 17, 2018 due to a Senate vote that took place June 19 and officially affirmed the legalization of all cannabis products, from marijuana to all of its various derivations. 

"Canadian cannabis legalization will have a significant social and regulatory impact."

As a result of this being formalized, there are many steps that must be taken by municipal, provincial and federal government authorities to prepare for the many implications this will have on overall Canadian society. Labeling and packaging will be among the areas affected, so it behooves current and prospective cannabis business figures to keep themselves abreast of all developments in this matter. It may also be wise to update label printers and related technology accordingly, to ensure the successful printing of compliant labels. 

Breakdown of the Legalization Process

Marijuana legalization has been expected in Canada for several years, recently in no small part because of assurances made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. But the process truly got rolling in late 2017, when the Cannabis Act, Bill C-45, was introduced on the floor of the Canadian House of Commons. According to The Motley Fool, all that currently stands in the way of recreational marijuana becoming fully legal is royal assent, but the Canadian government fully expects to receive it from the British Crown. 

The financial news site also noted among the 83 members in the Canadian Senate, 52 voted in favor of Bill C-45 during the latest legislative session on the matter, 29 were opposed and two abstained from the voting process. Previous efforts to secure a positive vote on cannabis legalization failed due to discomfort with some aspects of the bill, such as a provision allowing Canadian citizens to grow marijuana in their own homes, but opinions changed on that front, per the National Post's reporting. 

Impending Canadian Cannabis Legalization has Implications For LabelsCanada will only be the world's second country to make cannabis fully legal for all uses.

Effects on day-to-day Canadian life

A companion bill to the Cannabis Act, Bill C-46, will adjust Canada's penalties for driving under the influence of any drugs, legal or otherwise, so that they are the toughest in the entire world. This is likely intended to diminish any public safety concerns held by those who are opposed to cannabis legalization. Additionally, selling the substance to minors under the age of 19 (or 18 in the province of Alberta) will lead to harsher sentences for offenders than ever before – 14 years in prison, The Motley Fool noted. 

Packaging and Labeling Guidelines Already Put in Place

One of the interesting wrinkles to the process of Canadian marijuana legalization – and a major reason for the delays the government placed on the process – is the establishment of precise packaging, labeling and production guidelines for cannabis use, which occurred well in advance of the Senate vote. These standards will have a much more substantial impact on those planning to enter the cannabis business than the laws above regarding personal conduct. 

As reported on by CBC News in March 2018, Health Canada will require marijuana vendors to choose a number of different proposed health warning labels to be included on the products' packaging. Each notice features a primary and secondary warning, the latter having two potential alternatives. Some of these are considerably more serious than others. For example, one label first states "WARNING: Cannabis smoke is harmful," followed by an explanation of the similarities between cannabis and tobacco smoke. Others are far more specific, namely the cautionary words regarding the connection between using cannabis with higher tetrahydrocannibinol content and the greater likelihood of developing psychosis or schizophrenia (based on a 2017 study reported on by Scientific American).

According to MP Bill Blair, who was involved in the federal discussions regarding cannabis, guidelines such as these are intended to protect all Canadians – including those in the newly legal marijuana business.

"What we've heard from Canadians is clear: These regulations must protect the safety and health of Canadians, particularly our youth, while at the same time enabling a diverse, competitive and legal industry comprising both large and small players that can displace the existing illicit market for cannabis," Blair said to CBC. 

Most of the other restrictions regarding cannabis product packaging relate to the color and imagery, in keeping with the desire to not encourage marijuana use by minors. There can only be one advertising element beyond the brand name and description of the package's contents – either a slogan or a logo, not both. Also, none of this content can exceed the size of the required Health Canada warnings or obscure them, and shiny, metallic or fluorescent colors are strictly prohibited. Last but not least, the packaging must be tamper-proof. Prospective cannabis salespeople in Canada concerned about their ability to develop the right packaging should consider visiting DuraFast's Canadian store to find label software and other products necessary for designing compliant labels and packages.

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