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Guest Opinion: Stop Trashing Earth With Cannabis Packaging

August 23, 2018
California regulators need your input this week. (David Downs/Leafly)

Guest Opinion

California cannabis regulations expert Jackie McGowan (courtesy of K Street Consulting)

(courtesy of K Street Consulting)

Jackie McGowan is a cannabis regulations expert and the director of licensing and business development at K Street Consulting. She founded the influential Facebook group “California – City & County Regulation Watch, a public group about proposed cannabis laws and rules across California. Leafly welcomes op-ed contributions from industry and political leaders on a range of topics related to cannabis.


California cannabis consumers need to tell state regulators this week to:

  • cut down on wasteful cannabis packaging,
  • support statewide deliveries,
  • and prevent industry blackouts

—or we risk failing to launch real legalization in California.

The world needs your voice now.
Jackie McGowan, Director of Licensing and Business Development, K Street Consulting

As a cannabis regulations expert, I can tell you the state is in a critical, 45-day public comment period set to expire on August 27 at 5 p.m. Everyone agrees we’re “building the airplane” as we fly it in California. Well, we are now in a situation where that plane’s check-engine light is on. It’s flashing red, warning us that we are in dangerous territory, and as passengers, we are experiencing extreme turbulence. Prices are high, bans are rampant, and more rules are coming into effect. We must help keep this plane in the air. The world needs your voice now. Let’s dig into these three regulatory priorities and how you help:

Support Statewide Delivery

Problem: Storefront Bans Everywhere

Legalization Proposition 64 passed on a 56–44 vote in November 2016. To date, about 70% of the state bans stores where adults can buy cannabis. Many jursidictions also ban delivery from licensed delivery services that sell it.

Solution: Support Bureau of Cannabis Control Regulation Section 5416(d)

In order to protect our right to safe access, we must support BCC Regulation Section 5416(d), which would clarify drivers of licensed cannabis delivery businesses can travel on public roads and deliver into any jurisdiction in the state.

How You Support Delivery Where You Live

A Bay Area–based licensed delivery service, We Drop, has created a thoughtful response to this section in a handy and user-friendly link to make your support heard.

Step 1: Click here to send regulators a letter of support: https://www.wedrop.co/regulation-5416

Shop Legal Cannabis Near You on Leafly

Oppose Plastic Packaging Waste

Problem: We’re Trashing the Planet

We’re also wasting money without making cannabis any safer, with rules mandating all products be placed in bulky, opaque, child-resistant plastic exit bags. Society is moving away from plastic, and it is only a matter of time before a cannabis-friendly city bans plastic, child-resistant exit packaging because of the plastic waste.

Solution: Oppose BCC Regulation 5413

It would reinstate the rule that all exit packaging be child-resistant. Individual products in the bag already are. Consumers should remind California officials that we are trendsetting in our care for the environment and oppose the newly proposed BCC Regulation 5413.

How You Oppose Legal Cannabis Packaging Waste

Two agencies are involved with packaging in California, and they both need to hear from us.

Step 1: Email the California Department of Public Health: regulations@cdph.ca.gov. The subject line should reference “CDPH-17-010 and Regulation 40415.”

A sample email message may be, “I wanted to write to express my concern for the use of child-resistant exit packaging. This is detrimental to the environment, and should go the way of single-use plastic bags! We oppose the removal of this section and support the prior version of CDPH Regulation 40415 and request its reversal in the regulations. Thank you.”

Step 2: You can email the Bureau of Cannabis Control at BCC.comments@dca.ca.gov.  The subject line should reference “BCC-Regulation 5413.”

A suggested message may be, “Ms. Ajax, I wanted to write about the exit packaging requirements in the latest draft of regulations for the state of California’s cannabis operators. This packaging is bad for the environment and adds an additional cost to the end consumer, who is already experiencing sticker shock at dispensaries. I’d like to request that BCC Regulation 5413 be removed from the regulations. Thank you for taking time to consider my suggestion during this valuable comment period.”

Shop Legal Cannabis Near You on Leafly

Oppose Forced Industry Blackouts

Problem: Software Outages Happen

BCC Regulation Section 5050(d) states when a licensed business loses access to California’s online regulatory tracking software, they may not conduct business with other cannabis businesses, or with consumers, until their online access is restored. This could have unintended consequences and shut down the entire marketplace when the state’s chosen track and trace company, Metrc, ends up having an outage. All tech services have outages.

We are the largest cannabis market in the world and cannot be crippled by the outages at the state’s selected software provider. Just read here to see what the tiny state of Maryland with only 47,000 patients is currently experiencing.

Solution: Oppose BCC Section 5050(d)

If you want your favorite retailer or delivery service to still be open when technology crashes, please write the BCC requesting they remove Section 5050(d) from the regulations.

How You Can Oppose Forced Blackouts

Step 1: Email the BCC at BCC.comments@dca.ca.gov. Use ‘Regulation Section 5050(d)’ as the email subject line.

A suggested comment can be made such as this: “Ms. Ajax, I am a California consumer. I am concerned that the regulation concerning the Metrc system may have unintended consequences for the California marketplace. Patients in Maryland were recently severely affected by a system failure. I request that the BCC seriously consider removing Regulation Section 5050(d)  from the current regulations. Thank you.”

Step 2: Email the CDFA at (CalCannabisRegs@cdfa.ca.gov). Type “Reg 8402(e)(3)” in the email subject line.

A suggested comment can be made such as this: “Dear CFDA, I am a California consumer. I am concerned that the regulation concerning the Metrc system may have unintended consequences for the California marketplace. Patients in Maryland were recently severely affected by a system failure. I request that the BCC seriously consider removing Regulation Section 8402(e)(3) from the current regulations. Thank you.”

Step 3: Email the CDPH at regulations@cdph.ca.gov. Type “DPH-17-010 Reg 40513(d)” in the email subject line.

A suggested comment can be made such as this: “Dear CDPH, I am a California consumer. I am concerned that the regulation concerning the Metrc system may have unintended consequences for the California marketplace. Patients in Maryland were recently severely affected by a system failure. I request that the CDPH seriously consider removing Regulation Section 40513(d) from the current regulations. Thank you.”

Now’s the time to speak up, California. Or don’t complain later.

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Leafly Staff

Leafly is the world’s largest cannabis information resource, empowering people in legal cannabis markets to learn about the right products for their lifestyle and wellness needs. Our team of cannabis professionals collectively share years of experience in all corners of the market, from growing and retail, to science and medicine, to data and technology.

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  • Jessica

    I must disagree with the author on a few points in this article.

    To start, child resistant packaging (CRP) on all products rather than a single exit pouch due to environmental concerns is unfounded. I’m a huge advocate of recycling and creating environmentally friendly and sustainable products in and out of the cannabis community. Creating fully recyclable / eco friendly product packaging is hard enough (both in and out of the cannabis industry). Adding in an additional requirement of CRP adds a level of complexity with unclear environmental benefits.

    There are few existing options out there for companies to use in this space where the intersection of eco friendly / CRP. Although its great for those who can use these, it’s not yet a reality for all companies.

    Before pushing for the packaging you request, I urge the author, my fellow constituents, the California government, and the leafy staff to consider keeping exit packaging as the mandate UNTIL the following can occur:
    – Thorough exploration into alternatives to individual CRP:
    – Recycle or trade in programs for exit packaging
    – Exit packaging that can be reused (either at the dispensary of origin or at other dispensaries)
    – Exploration into practices used in the current pharmacies- Packaging meant / not meant for households with and without children
    – Study to compare the benefits of CRP exit packaging vs. CRP product packaging.

    I cannot finish off this comment without noting that the author of this article has been paid $$$ from numerous businesses- both large and small. Jacqueline (and many other consultants) advocated to their clients to purchase CRP compliant packaging prior to the final regulations coming out.

    A disclaimer should exist for the above.

    • Jacqueline McGowan

      I will always be a patient/consumer first and foremost. These are my views and not that of any of my clients. I really appreciate your articulate response though and am resigned to agree to disagree.

    • matthew k

      There are costs associated with all exit packaging. Rigid containers cost more and would lead to higher prices on the cannabis products in the dispensary. Trade in programs or bring back your own CR exit bag should be the norm rather than cr exit bags fo every item in the store since it is redundant and unnecessary. There are no true biodegradable plastics out there in the landfill. Some bio based are still expensive like rigid. The main goal is to safeguard children from poisoning themselves from intake of any edibles or ingesting anything else. Maybe terracycle or an org like them would help, but I think a bring back your CR exit bag and get a 1$ off would benefit not only the consumer but the dispensary and children as well.

  • Rod is on the Gas

    The delivery debate needs to be clarified. As it is proposed, tax evasion, is being advocated. COD from out of the community is illegal. The tax collectors require a geographical point of sale. It cannot be within a banned community. So which taxing authority will prevail? A vehicle legally driving on the community streets is OK, but
    that vehicle cannot collect money. Tax evasion is a felony which will call in the Federal dogs.

  • George

    It was no surprise to anyone in the alcohol beverage industry that the former CA ABC employee, Lori Ajax, made a shit show of the cannabis regulations. The ABC is not only a completely unnecessary and useless
    bureaucracy (btw, Nevada doesn’t have an ABC and does just fine without one), but it amounts to a bunch of mall cops with guns one step above prison guards in IQ. Note, Ms Ajax is a Republican in case anyone is still deluded enough to think that folks of that political ideology are somehow better at running government programs.
    The most obvious mistake these clueless regulators made was they didn’t allowed existing liquor retailers to apply for permits to sell cannabis like they sell tobacco and vape products. The only way the black market will be eliminated is for the products to be both convenient to purchase legally and supply plentiful enough to lower the retail cost. You don’t see anyone bothering to bootleg vodka when it can be purchased at the grocery store or Costco for under $20!