Your first (or second, or third) package of legal cannabis just came in the mail, and you excitedly tear open the envelope — to find the least exciting, most text-heavy labelling imaginable.
Health Canada regulates the packaging and label requirements for recreational cannabis, and has a number of necessities for the use of colours, the size of logos, and where required information must be placed.
But what’s the difference between THC and “total THC”? Why is there a stop sign on there?
Time to figure out what it all means. Let’s start with the front of the package.
1. Standardized cannabis symbol (the stop sign)
One of the most prominent elements of the packaging, every product containing cannabis must legally include that big red cannabis leaf logo with “THC” across the bottom, in standardized colours set out by Health Canada. It has to be at least 1.27 cm by 1.27 cm, no matter how big the package is.
Believe it or not, the physical container is one of the most heavily regulated parts of cannabis packaging. It must be opaque or translucent, child resistant, a single colour that isn’t metallic or fluorescent, and it must have a matte finish and a smooth texture. It can’t have heat-activated ink, contain secret panels or cut-out windows, and it can’t smell like anything or make any noise.
3. Company name
The name of the licensed cannabis producer. There are no restrictions on what it can look like, as long as the font isn’t “fluorescent” or “metallic,” and it’s no bigger than the health warning message.
At least one of Health Canada’s pre-written warnings must be printed on a standardized yellow-and-black background, such as “Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding.” As well, warning “KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN” (see #18, below) must be printed verbatim in English and French.
5. Brand name or logo
One “brand element” — usually a logo — is allowed to appear on the front of the package. If it’s just font, it must be smaller than the health warning. If it’s a logo, it has to be smaller than the “stop sign” standardized cannabis symbol.
The quantity of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical compound in cannabis that gets you high) and CBD (cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive part of cannabis that many people use to treat pain and anxiety) as a percentage of the total weight of the product in the case of dried or fresh flower — or in milligrams, in the case of “discrete units” like pills.
7. Total THC/CBD
“Total THC/CBD” refers to the amounts of those cannabinoids that could exist in the product, if you convert all the THCA and CBDA (two non-psychoactive chemical compounds in cannabis) into THC and CBD, respectively. It’s pretty easy to do, too — all you need is an oven.
8. Excise stamp
This signifies that the producer has paid the federal excise tax on cannabis.
9. Strain name
The name the producer gave to the type of cannabis contained within.
10. Recommended storage conditions
Sunlight and air degrades the potency of cannabis. Keep it cool and dry, in an airtight container.
11. Cannabis “class”
The package must say what kind of cannabis it contains: dried flower, oil, seeds, etc.
Packages must say when the cannabis was packed, and when its expiry date is — or that no expiry date has been determined.
13. Bar code
The bar code is legally not allowed to contain any designs, and must be in black and white.
14. Contact information
Every cannabis package must display the name, phone number and email for the licensed cannabis producer.
15. Lot number
Standard for almost any product sold in Canada — it just refers to a particular quantity, or “lot” of products, to make it easier to track and issue recalls if need be.
16. Weight (and why it might be slightly off)
You’ll see the weight of your cannabis printed in grams — but if you weigh it, it might not be exactly right. Health Canada allows for it to vary slightly from package to package, by 10% up to 2 grams, and 5% for packages containing more than that — which means if you order the maximum allowable 30 grams, you could get up to one and a half more or fewer grams than you paid for.
17. Opening instructions
Producers are allowed to include a black-and-white set of instructions on how to open the childproof package. Keep in mind when opening pouches that the slide-lock top can be tougher than the glue that holds it in place — if you don’t grip the lock right in the middle, it can pull away from the sides, ruining your package.