More bags, less fun: California's new packaging rules

More bags, less fun: California's new packaging rules

We've talked a little bit already about how the rules will affect California's recreational market when it opens on January 1, but the biggest point of friction (outside of the way that the state's laws still contradict federal regulation) will likely be in the packaging on day one.

Right now, you can walk into a dispensary in CA as a medical patient, and pick up the flower you're looking for out of a bunch of different jars, but as of 1/1/2018, all marijuana sold in the state will have to be pre-packaged. Not only that, but the packaging will sometimes require a warning symbol, and needs to avoid cartoon logos or fun names. Right now, most dispensaries do place product in an opaque bag, but after January 1, the bag will not only need to be opaque but will likely require some child-resistant protections as well. 

That's a big change, and unlike some of the regulations around growing or sales, it will pretty directly affect customers on day 1. You can still buy what you need (and of course in some cities you'll be able to buy it recreationally, rather than needing a doctor's recommendation), but there won't be any more looking at or smelling bud before you buy it, because it all has to be packaged up.

And of course not only does this change the experience (possibly for the worse), but it also means more money -- more money on packaging, more labor to package product, and more money spent redesigning packages to match the new requirements. That's the kind of cost that gets passed on to the consumer directly, unfortunately.

California is already set to be the biggest market for recreational cannabis in the world, and there's no doubt that in the first few weeks of January, we'll hear about lines out the door and huge sales. That said, however, these regulations are hopefully far from final. The goal should be to end up at a place where consumers can get what they're looking for, have a good experience doing it, and be able to do at a cost that doesn't break the bank for anyone. Right out of the gate in January, that seems unlikely to happen, unfortunately.

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