Le­gal weed has a fright­en­ing amount of pack­ag­ing

Cus­tomers and cannabis pro­duc­ers take is­sue with the abun­dance of sin­gle-use plas­tics re­quired by the gov­ern­ment.



cannabis fresh on the le­gal Cana­dian mar­ket, con­sumers can ex­pect a whole lot of plas­tic and card­board pack­ag­ing with their le­gal weed—a stark shift from the small plas­tic bags com­mon in il­le­gal cannabis dis­tri­bu­tion.

Health Canada reg­u­la­tions spec­ify that pack­ag­ing needs to be “child re­sis­tant” and “tam­per ev­i­dent.” Dried cannabis, for ex­am­ple, is sold in con­tain­ers that re­sem­ble wide pill bot­tles with child re­sis­tant tops. One con­tainer hold­ing 3.5 grams of cannabis—that costs around $30 to $40 from the NSLC—con­tains nearly 50 grams of sin­gle-use plas­tic. Pre-rolled joints, mean­while, come in a sealed clear plas­tic cas­ing in­side a card­board box.

“A new prod­uct should have a more mod­ern, 21st cen­tury pack­ag­ing that re­flects the wants and needs of peo­ple and right now, we don’t want plas­tic,” says Re­becca Brushett, marine cam­paign co­or­di­na­tor for the Ecol­ogy Ac­tion Cen­tre. She spe­cial­izes in plas­tic pol­lu­tion.

“There are al­ter­na­tives and I think as the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment, they had the abil­ity to step up,” says Brushett. “They def­i­nitely missed the mark.”

Dur­ing the G7 cli­mate change con­fer­ence hosted in Hal­i­fax last month, Canada’s en­vi­ron­ment and cli­mate change min­is­ter, Cather­ine McKenna, an­nounced plans to get rid of all sin­gle-use plas­tics—straws, cut­lery, bot­tles, cups and pack­ag­ing—from fed­eral gov­ern­ment op­er­a­tions, in­clud­ing Health Canada.

Now, Brushett feels let down by how much sin­gle-use plas­tic the gov­ern­ment re­quires for sell­ing le­gal cannabis .

“The prom­ises might be a lit­tle bit of smoke and mir­rors, which is re­ally dis­ap­point­ing. It’s great to say stuff but ob­vi­ously proof is in the ac­tion” says Brushett.

Li­cenced pro­duc­ers (LPs) in the Cannabis Coun­cil of Canada are “do­ing our best as a group to be en­vi­ron­men­tally con­scious,” says Mar­i­anella De­labar­rera, vice pres­i­dent of com­mu­ni­ca­tions at WeedMD, an On­tario based cannabis sup­plier with prod­ucts at the NSLC.

“The in­dus­try as a whole has been con­cerned about the po­ten­tial waste prob­lem,” says De­labar­rera.

While she hasn’t seen metal or glass con­tain­ers be­ing pro­posed as an al­ter­na­tive, she says they are open to many al­ter­na­tives “to con­tinue safely pack­ag­ing while re­duc­ing our pack­ag­ing and waste”.

In ad­di­tion to be­ing child re­sis­tant and tam­per proof, Health Canada’s strict reg­u­la­tions re­quire that cannabis con­tain­ers have cer­tain la­bels, keep cannabis dry and pre­vent con­tam­i­na­tion, along with other spec­i­fi­ca­tions.

Reusing con­tain­ers is one al­ter­na­tive, De­labar­rera says, but they’re not there yet.

“At this point in time we haven’t seen how that would work be­cause our con­tain­ers need to be ster­ile,” she says.

A pro­gram would also have to be cre­ated by prov­inces to col­lect and re­turn con­tain­ers to the pro­duc­ers they came from.

“I have a sense that po­ten­tially with feed­back from LPs and con­sumers maybe we’re go­ing to have re­quire­ments change,” says De­labar­rera. “We’re open to look­ing at all dif­fer­ent types of al­ter­na­tives but def­i­nitely while re­main­ing within the guide­lines set by Health Canada.”

Brushett says it’s tough for en­vi­ron­men­tally con­scious cannabis con­sumers be­cause each pur­chase in­volves so much waste.

“I re­ally hope to see Health Canada do some­thing, but as a con­sumer you can write in, you can ask the com­pa­nies who are sell­ing it, and com­pa­nies who are sell­ing it can ask the gov­ern­ment.”

She would like to see the gov­ern­ment and cannabis pro­duc­ers ex­plore op­tions like biodegrad­able plas­tic, metal or glass con­tain­ers, pro­vided the de­sign still fol­lows reg­u­la­tions like be­ing child re­sis­tant.

“I think the peo­ple of Canada are to­tally ready for more eco-friendly pack­ag­ing,” she says.

For now, Brushett urges con­sumers to make sure the used cannabis con­tain­ers go into the re­cy­cling bin or find an­other use for the con­tainer around the house.

“It’s not great, but make sure it doesn’t go into the garbage.”

Some of the ridicu­lous pack­ag­ing sur­round­ing your le­gal weed.


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