For almost a year now, holders of a federal licence, distributors and retailers authorized by the Canadian provinces and territories may commercialize dried cannabis, fresh cannabis, cannabis oil, cannabis plants and the seeds of cannabis plants, as the case may be.
This coming October 17, new categories of cannabis – namely edible cannabis, cannabis extracts and cannabis topicals – will be legalized, and a wide array of new products will hit the market.
As such, this is an appropriate time to revisit the rules applicable to the packaging and labelling of these products. The following is a summary of those rules.
In Quebec, sections 25 to 28 of the Cannabis Act1 (the federal statute), sections 105 to 137 of the Cannabis Regulations2 adopted pursuant to that statute, and sections 53, 56 and 57 of the Cannabis Regulation Act3 (the Quebec statute) prescribe the rules applicable to the packaging and labelling of cannabis products.
First, the packaging and labelling must not:
- be appealing to young persons;
- feature testimonials or endorsements on the packaging or labelling;
- feature a depiction of real or fictional persons, characters or animals;
- directly or indirectly associate the use of cannabis with a particular lifestyle;
- associate cannabis or one of its elements with, or evoke a positive or negative emotion or image of, a way of life;
- contain information that is false, misleading or deceptive or is likely to create an erroneous impression about the characteristics, value, quantity, composition, strength, concentration, potency, purity, quality, merit, safety, health effects or risks4.
The rules set out in the Cannabis Regulations with respect to packaging are clear and strict. There are thus provisions on the mandatory neutral appearance of packaging, such as:
- No brand element may be displayed on any container, unless otherwise provided in the legislation5;
- The exterior surface of any container in which cannabis is packaged must have a matte finish, a smooth texture, be of one uniform colour, not have any feature designed to change the appearance of the container such as heat-activated ink, and must not be capable of emitting a scent or sound6.
The rules on labelling concern the information that must be provided to consumers. All information included on the label of any cannabis product must be in English and French7 and must include, in particular:
- prescribed information regarding the product and the holder of a licence for cultivating or manufacturing the product;
- certain prescribed warnings, including health warnings;
- the product’s expiry date and stability period, if known8;
- the standardized cannabis symbol;
- the name of the brand, the appearance of which must meet certain requirements (another brand element may also appear, again under strict requirements)9.
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Several other rules are set out in the Cannabis Regulations, depending in particular on the type of product involved10. It is thus important for manufacturers and sellers to be familiar with the relevant legal provisions, and if in any doubt to consult a legal advisor, in order to minimize the legal and commercial risks associated with a product recall or other possible sanctions.