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Let’s Talk About Packaging and Labeling

The IL MCPP is about to celebrate its 3 year anniversary. Medical cannabis usage has improved the quality of the lives of thousands of patients during that short time. However, the difficulty with the packaging and the lack of adequate and legible labeling continues to be a source of irritation for many patients. I routinely see discussions among patients about the packaging and labeling. Since many patients are disabled and have problems with mobility in their hands, opening the medical cannabis containers is still proving difficult for many. On a positive note, there have been many changes for the better. The containers are required to be “childproof.” This means that a group of 5 years olds cannot open it within a 5 minute period, but an adult can open it immediately, in theory. Many patients are unable to open the containers at all and require help from family members. I’ve heard that many use tools like pliers and scissors to gain access. Clearly, this is not ideal.

My goal in writing these articles is to address the ongoing problems of patients and to come up with a solution. I reached out to the cannabis community via the Illinois Medical Cannabis Community Facebook page and asked for input about the current state of packaging and labeling. My hope is to present this to cultivators. I know they value the concerns and input of the patients that they serve. Thanks to all the patients who took the time to respond to my post.

The two concerns overwhelmingly mentioned were:

  1. There is way too much packaging; double packaging is wasteful and unnecessary.
  2. The containers are still very difficult to open, despite different types of containers and seals

Here are all the suggestions I received about the packaging:

  • Although plastic containers work well, they must be replaced due to environmental concerns.
  • Patients viewed the replacement of¬†opaque plastic containers with transparent ones as an improvement in allowing them to see the product.
  • Many patients liked the foil containers but found the ziplock difficult to open. It has been discontinued by some cultivators.
  • Many patients prefer the glass containers.
  • Many patients are in favor of eliminating the plastic wrap around the containers, replaced by a strip seal.
  • Oil tinctures are very difficult to work with, especially when trying to get the last drops of product out of the container. Patients are paying for product they cannot access.
  • There were many complaints about vape pens; they leak, don’t work, the batteries are bad. One suggestion was to sell the oil in vape pens by itself.
  • Some patients liked the tin can type containers but complained that it is difficult for many to have to line up the arrows to open them.
  • Get rid of the pre-packs as they are impossible to open and to remove all the product.
  • Resealable flower bags are difficult to reseal.
  • Individually wrapped edibles get stuck to the packaging upon opening.
  • Squeeze on top containers are not only difficult to work with but it is easy to lose the product unless you transfer it to a bag upon opening.
  • One patients transfers his product to airtight jars which he purchases separately; an additional expense.

Suggestions and comments to help new patients with no experience of using medical cannabis:

  • Some of the dispensaries now offer a “New Patient Kit” with a selection of flower, wax, edible. This is very helpful for new patients who have no idea where to start. No patient wants to spend money, only to find out the product is of no benefit.
  • Offer sample packs with a selection of product by different dosages, different strains, different CBD:THC profiles. High CBD/low THC and 1:1 and for those who find microdosing to be the most beneficial dosing system.

Suggestions for improvements with labeling:

  • Larger print to meet ADA standards. Include terpene profiles and mark products as indica/sativa/hybrid.
  • Label the strain on the cartridge so that patients know what it is when they get it home.
  • Label the flower within the container.
  • Dispensaries and all websites need to post their lab results online. A more in depth analysis for each strain and product would be very helpful. It is difficult to find the number of mg and the percentages o CBD/THC for different vape pens, edibles, etc. Patients want to know exactly what they are purchasing.

Feel free to add to my list of comments and suggestions!

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