Major Canadian licensed weed producers are mostly dissatisfied over the federal government’s latest requirements for how recreational weed should be packaged and labelled.
“These are excellent regulations for maintaining the black market in Canada,” Aurora Cannabis Chief Corporate Officer Cam Battley told VICE Money. “I’m a bit surprised the government doesn’t get it yet. This will give a clear advantage to black market products.”
Health Canada is placing strict requirements on how all cannabis products will be packaged and labelled once legalization takes place later this year.
Cannabis must be packaged in a single, uniform-coloured container or bag that will display a standardize cannabis symbol in red, white and black, and a bright yellow label with one of six health warnings on it. Weed companies may display their own logo on the packaging, but it will not be allowed to exceed the size of the standardized cannabis symbol. In addition, brands will be prohibited from displaying any other image or graphic on the chosen packaging.
The packaging and labelling requirements are in effect, much more similar to tobacco products than they are to alcohol and beer, a decision that Battley says displays the “incomplete psychology of the federal government.”
“Why aren’t health warnings displayed on alcohol and beer? I’m very confident that these requirements are going to evolve after legalization and eventually the treatment of alcohol and cannabis will be harmonized.”
Under the present Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations regime, medical cannabis producers are not subject to any kind of packaging or labelling restrictions on their products. Medical producers will have six months upon legalization to alter their packaging in order to meet the new requirements — recreational weed will be packaged according to the new rules from day one of legalization.
“Taking the relative health risks of cannabis into account, we hoped and advocated for rules closer to those for beverage alcohol but we'll work with this as a starting point,” Canopy Growth Corporations spokesperson Jordan Sinclair told VICE Money.
Some licensed producers, however, greeted these new proposals positively. Tilray CEO Brendan Kennedy said he was “pleased” that the government had listened to licensed producers across Canada and recognized the need for the legal industry to have an “element of flexibility in terms of allowing logos, slogans and colour on packaging in order to effectively compete with the illicit market.”
Kennedy believes that the government took into account the views of those in the legal industry committed to “black market eradication”, a point of view that Aurora’s Battley vehemently rejects.
“They need to understand that if they want to address the central objective of legalization which is getting rid of the black market, they have to let us compete effectively,” Battley said.
The Senate is set to vote on the federal government’s pot bill on June 7th, upon which royal assent will follow. It will take between eight to 12 weeks after legalization for provinces and territories to prepare for retail sales, meaning that legal weed will only really be available for purchase in September of this year.