As New York state ramps up for legal sales of recreational marijuana, regulators have released the latest proposed guidelines for the nascent industry: packaging and marketing requirements. Notably, authorities have turned an eye toward environmental impact, putting limits on single-use plastics and encouraging the use of recycled and reusable materials.
Such tactics are further proof that the New York state government is trying to learn from the follies of states that previously legalized weed. In states like Oregon, strict requirements surrounding the child-proof packaging of cannabis products have led companies to using difficult-to-recycle plastic containers and other environmentally-unsustainable materials to house their products. Some legal pot shops have even implemented their own packaging return programs.
In response, New York's Cannabis Control Board, which regulates all things regarding legal cannabis, have mandated that prospective marijuana-business licensees must include a plan for sustainable packaging as part of their permit application to the state. No single-use plastic containers will be allowed unless 25% of the content comes from recycled materials.
Stakes are high when it comes to the rules that will run New York’s budding weed industry. Some experts are forecasting that the state’s cannabis economy will be worth $5.8 billion within five years. Recreational sales are estimated to begin by the end of this year.
Many are most concerned that those dollars will find their way to the communities that were decimated by racially-biased drug war policing. New York’s government has responded to those worries by announcing that the first 100 cannabis retail licenses will be awarded to those with a nonviolent cannabis-related offense on their record — or to individuals with family members who fit that description.
Other parts of New York's proposed packaging regulations will sound familiar with those who are aware of other states’ regulatory systems. No cartoons, bubble letters, or neon colors will be allowed on cannabis packaging. Three symbols — a New York state logo, a circle enclosing the digits “21+” to indicate age limits on consumption, and a yellow and black triangle with a weed leaf and the word “THC!” to denote products with that cannabinoid — will figure on every corresponding weed package. Television ads and billboards will be allowed, but billboards will not be permitted within 500 feet of a school, rec center, child care center, playground, public park, or library.
Furthermore, in additional efforts to clean-up the state's legal cannabis scene, slang terms such as "weed" and "stoner" may not be allowed in marketing materials nor on packaging.
The state's regulations also included draft requirements for testing labs, which are largely in line with testing regulations enacted in other states.
For example, any solvents used in the making of the product must be identified on the package, as well as dosing, cannabinoid amounts, and even nutrition labels if the product is a cannabis-infused food or drink. Due to federal regulations, no one will be allowed to use words like “organic” or “craft” on their labels, or imply that their recreational cannabis product has a therapeutic use. In contrast, manufacturers will be required to put cautionary health warnings on their packages, like those currently found on cigarette boxes.
“We are committed to building a New York cannabis industry that sets high standards for protecting children and keeping products safe and sustainable,” said Cannabis Control Board Chair Tremaine Wright in a press release.
Are you a New Yorker who is feeling these new rules, or do you feel like they’ll sink the industry? The state has opened up a 60-day public comment period for residents to weigh in on the proposals.
To submit a public comment about New York's new weed rules, click here.