JUNE 23, 2023

Storing Cannabis Products in Legalized Markets: Compliance and Safety Considerations

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With the legalization of cannabis in various jurisdictions, the cannabis industry has witnessed significant growth and a focus on regulatory compliance. It is crucial that businesses within the cannabis industry understand and properly maintain compliance laws set forth by their governing local authority for many reasons, one of which being the astronomical non-compliance penalties. As part of this compliance, proper storage practices are crucial to ensure the safety, integrity, and legality of cannabis products. In this article, we will explore the specific considerations and regulations surrounding the storage of cannabis products in legalized markets, highlighting the importance of compliance and safety practices involved.

Child-Resistant Packaging

In the United States, all cannabis products must comply with child-resistant packaging regulations laid out by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). As expected, every state has its own specific laws regarding cannabis packaging, which is why it’s vital for cannabis brands to research the rules and get legal advice in their local region. The conventional strategy is to create a locking mechanism that can only be opened by a series of movements that require an adult's strength, dexterity, or hand size. Young children are typically unable to accomplish two actions at the same time or apply equal pressure to two different areas of a pack.

In general terms, states will usually stipulate the following rules: 

  • Packaging for cannabis products must be designed in a way that is significantly difficult for children under five to open, but not difficult for adults to use. 

  • Cannabis products cannot be packaged in a way that appeals to children. I.e., it shouldn’t look like candy or have labeling that uses bright colors or cartoon characters. 

  • A cannabis pack designed for multiple uses must be resealable, and must remain child-resistant for all future uses. 

  • A cannabis pack should bear the words “KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN”. 

Many states will specify the Poison Prevention Packaging Act in their wording and will require packs to have been tested according to these rules. In some states, their regulation/codes require that the packaging containing an edible cannabis product is opaque (not see through), making it impossible for a casual observer to identify its contents, as well as how much is left.

Labeling Requirements 

Accurate and informative labeling is a vital aspect of cannabis product storage. Although labeling requirements vary by jurisdiction, they will usually need to include the following: 

  • A cannabis warning symbol 

  • Product identity (e.g. vape cartridge or lotion) 

  • THC and CBD content/strength 

  • List of ingredients 

  • Allergens 

  • Recommended storage conditions 

  • Health warnings 

  • Quantity of items (e.g. number of capsules or gummies) 

Only certain states have clear-cut rules outlying the types of branding and aesthetic features edible product packaging can and should have. Adhering to labeling guidelines ensures that consumers have access to essential information and helps maintain compliance with local laws.

Security Measures 

Licensed dispensaries and retail establishments are responsible for maintaining secure and compliant storage areas. Securing the storage of cannabis products is the most important factor in maintaining compliance. This also includes staying up to date with regulatory changes as they occur. Businesses that do not comply with security guidelines are at risk of losing their license to sell cannabis products. Even worse, additional penalties may be sanctioned by the regulatory bodies, depending on the violation.

Security measures typically required include, but are not limited to, the following:  

  • Businesses must have tight access control to the building, including all entrance and exit points leading to the store or the growth facility being consistently monitored.  

  • Security operations must be documented. This includes having strict operational procedures governing the hours of access and the people who have access.  

  • Some states require video surveillance with a quality of at least 1280 by 720 pixels.  

  • Storage needs to be safe and secure with video surveillance.  

  • It's mandatory to report theft or loss of merchandise. The report must be made within 24 hours of discovery in some states.  

  • Personnel must undergo proper vetting before being hired. This is because employees commit around 90% of cannabis theft.  

  • The alarm system must have an automatic trigger.  

  • Security personnel are required for storefront businesses while they are open. For some stores, physical security is required 24/7.  

  • Some states also require a network alarm system. This keeps digital information safe by regularly uploading data to the cloud. Since most stores now use computers for sales and inventory, the automatic system limits loss due to computer problems. 

Temperature and Humidity Control 

Cannabis products are highly susceptible to degradation when exposed to extreme temperatures and humidity. Proper climate control within storage areas is thus crucial to maintain the quality and potency of the products. However, different cannabis products, such as flower, concentrates, edibles, and topicals, may have varying storage requirements. Separating products based on their characteristics and storage needs helps prevent cross-contamination and maintains product quality. Monitoring equipment can also be utilized to ensure temperature and humidity levels remain within acceptable parameters.

Inventory Control and Tracking 

For dispensaries and retail storefronts, implementing inventory audit processes is crucial for compliance and optimal success. Licensed establishments are typically required to maintain detailed records of all cannabis products, including information such as batch numbers, quantities, and product movements. Implementing robust inventory control systems and conducting regular audits help ensure accurate tracking and prevent diversion or unauthorized handling of products. Performing internal audits can also help gain insight into optimizing sales and identify any issues with fraud or theft.

Sanitation and Hygiene 

Cleanliness and hygiene are essential in cannabis storage areas. Sanitation requirements vary from hand-washing methods and clothing mandates for employees to the setup and layout of the facility. Regular cleaning and maintenance of storage spaces, the equipment, and packaging materials help prevent contamination and ensure product integrity. Proper storage practices also prevent product degradation and help maintain potency. In some states, customers may not have direct access to cannabis products while shopping unless they are inspecting samples with the assistance of authorized dispensary staff. Compliance with these regulations is not only crucial for legal reasons, but also plays an important role in ensuring consumer safety.

The Bottom Line 

By adhering to storage requirements, licensed establishments demonstrate their commitment to product quality and responsible business practices. It’s crucial for businesses to stay informed about local regulations and engage in ongoing training and education to stay compliant with evolving standards. By prioritizing compliance and implementing sound storage procedures, stakeholders can contribute to the growth and legitimacy of the legalized cannabis market while safeguarding the well-being of all consumers involved. 

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