Problems with child-resistant packaging for cannabis

Published Nov 17, 2021 12:00 p.m. ET
iStock / megaflopp

Safety is a number one priority in most industries resulting in a wide variety of different types of labels and packaging designed to make it more difficult for vulnerable individuals to accidentally come into contact with the contents of hazardous ingredients inside.

Everything from cleaning products to medicines is typically housed in childproof containers that include locking mechanisms and seals, which require a fair amount of strength and dexterity to open. In many cases, this isn’t a bad thing, as it places an essential barrier that can save lives – but in most situations where these protections are implemented, the risks generally far outweigh the costs, and that’s just not the case with cannabis.

Struggling cannabis consumers

Cannabis enthusiasts and patients alike are having trouble with child-resistant packaging used by so many companies in order to meet compliance standards. It’s so bad that budtenders and other dispensary workers expect a relatively consistent flow of customers who can’t quite figure out how to get to their weed, a trend that’s inspired funny saying like ‘You’ll need a hammer, screwdriver, drill, and saw to open one up.’ Now, that might sound drastic, but it’s really a way to laugh off a common problem that’s getting in the way of millions of consumers who just want to medicate.

Those who struggle most are often elderly or medical patients who aren’t in the best of health, as many face issues with dexterity and strength, or lack of support, leaving them with no one to ask for assistance. It’s not just medical consumers though, many perfectly abled, strong individuals find themselves breaking skin, fingernails, and even packaging that’s meant to be reused, in an attempt to break through childproof packaging. Of course, it’s less problematic for some than it is for others, still, it's an issue nonetheless and an unnecessary one at that.

Are they enough to keep kids out?

Sure, some of these added mechanisms might make it more difficult for youth to get into a parent’s stash, a fact that’s clear when you look at the sheer number of regular legal aged users who are struggling to get into their packs of pre-rolls or herb but is this one small difference enough to keep the most determined kids out? The truth is probably not, which leads us to our next point. Even if it does protect some youth from gaining access, what would the risks be if child-resistant cannabis packaging ceased to exist?

Is cannabis a real danger to vulnerable persons?

Do we want kids, pets, or vulnerable adults to accidentally (or purposefully) consume/use cannabis products? Well, of course not, which is why we have laws in place that bar adults from providing underage individuals with cannabis goods, but do we really need to go so far as to make it hard for regular consumers to medicate? Probably not since it’s a non-toxic product. Flower isn’t even activated, meaning that the majority of the active ingredient is still in its primal form THCA, which won’t induce a euphoric buzz, and even those that are full of pure THC aren’t likely to have devastating consequences when they’re accidentally or intentionally consumed.

Booze isn’t packaged in this cautious way

In the big wide world of alcohol, where it isn’t required to use childproof packaging, seals, or anything else, despite the dangerous contents that lie within, we see very few if any child-resistant packages. The majority of these drinks are even decorated in fun ways that might resemble regular pop, with screw top lids or pull-up tabs that open just like a can of many traditional sweet beverages, and still, there are no multiple layers of protection to keep vulnerable people out.

Legal-aged consumers are expected to take responsibility for the substance they choose to have in their home, and we have yet to see much damage caused by this lack of regulatory oversight, even though alcohol is certainly toxic and incredibly dangerous to young children in particular. Somehow this arrangement works out ok, yet we expect cannabis businesses and consumers to jump through hoops. It just doesn’t make much sense, and that’s why many advocates are pushing for a rollback of this specific safety standard.

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