Vermont’s new guideline aims to eliminate plastic waste from the state’s cannabis industry

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While witnessing the continued rise of the legal cannabis industry over the years has been an exciting and invigorating experience for many, it is also becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the amount of plastic waste involved. As states are required to enforce cannabis compliance, which usually means child-resistant packaging for all products leaving the building, the result is often an abundance of single-use plastic that is harder to recycle. than the materials you might find at the grocery store.

Vermont’s Cannabis Control Board seeks to change that. In the new ‘Guide to Packaging’, published earlier this month, the council says that ‘packaging intended for purchase by consumers in a retail store must be reusable and must not be plastic’. The guide gives examples of acceptable reusable materials, including glass, tin, cardboard and bamboo.

Cannabis packaging must be child-repellent and opaque. The guidelines define cannabis as all parts of the plant, including seeds; resin extracted from any part of the plant; and any compound, manufacture, salt, derivative or preparation of the plant, its seed or its resin.

This is further clarification, as “child-repellent packaging” refers to tear-resistant packaging that can be sealed in such a way as to “deter children under the age of five from easily accessing the contents of the packaging within a reasonable time” while remaining simple for adults to use and access correctly.

Child-resistant packaging, on the other hand, includes packaging designed or constructed to be “significantly difficult for children under five years of age to open”, or to get a toxic or harmful amount of the substance into the container “in a reasonable quantity”. of time”, also that adults can easily use.

It may seem like a small distinction, but child-repellent packaging is generally a less burdensome requirement from a packaging standpoint, typically requiring less use of plastic or other hard materials.

The packaging of cannabis products, i.e. concentrated cannabis and products “composed of cannabis and other ingredients”, intended for use and consumption, including edibles, ointments, tinctures and vaporizer cartridges containing cannabis oil, must be childproof and opaque.

This is a rational distinction to make, given that there is less risk of harm to a young child accessing flower cannabis than edible cannabis. For example, a child would have to find a way to smoke the flower to experience its effects, whereas an edible or anything with activated THC would have a psychoactive effect upon consumption.

The new guidelines also state that a licensee can apply for a waiver of the ban on plastic consumer packaging if they can demonstrate that they have difficulty obtaining non-plastic packaging, including the unavailability of non-plastic packaging; inability to obtain protection for children; or the need to maintain shelf-life stability, prevent contamination of cannabis or cannabis products, or avoid exposure to cannabis/cannabis products that are toxic or harmful.

For those trying to obtain a waiver, a licensee must offer a packaging alternative that uses “de minimis plastic”, i.e. only the amount of plastic “reasonably necessary” to overcome the difficulties identified in the exemption request.

Vermont became the 11th state to regulate adult cannabis sales and the second state to do so through legislation, rather than election initiative, nearly two years ago. Governor Phil Scott announced on October 7, 2020 that he would allow S. 54 – the bill that would regulate and tax cannabis sales in the state – to become law without his signature.

“I know it is difficult to tackle these complex issues remotely and during this unprecedented pandemic,” Scott said in a statement at the time. “Once again, I thank the lawmakers who have worked to reach out to me over the past two years on this issue. Nevertheless, the legislator still has a lot of work to do to ensure the fairness of this new policy and to prevent its work from becoming a public health problem for current and future generations. For these reasons, I allow this bill to become law without my signature.

In 2021, the Legislature moved forward to follow through on the promise to center social equity, as the House and Senate passed Section 25, which aims to strengthen social equity provisions. , forcing regulators to reduce or eliminate license fees for applicants who have been negatively impacted. by federal enforcement of cannabis laws.

The new rules for plastic packaging will be in place when adult-use sales begin in Vermont, sometime later in 2022.

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