A Guide to Packaging Regulations and their Impact on Cannabis Retail Compliance

For students studying cannabis and its production, learning about
cannabis retail compliance is among the most important aspects of the program. 

One of the first things students in cannabis programs should learn about is how the rules are set out for labeling and packaging. There are a multitude of nuances for how cannabis can be correctly packaged and labelled in Canada, and the compliance regulations for retailers can vary between each province, since the federal government has left much of that responsibility to individual provinces and their jurisdictions. However, the Cannabis Act outlines that this duty is shared between provincial governments and the federal government.

Here’s what you need to know about the impact of packaging regulations on cannabis retail compliance.

The Current Packaging Guidelines in Canada Explained

According to Health Canada, the guidelines for cannabis regulations are a list of rules to guide the labeling and packaging of cannabis and its related products prior to distribution. For example, there are several different aesthetic regulations to how cannabis in Canada is properly packaged. These include regulations such as: 

  • Packing cannabis in child-resistant containers, as well as in a plain package (though branding and colours can vary while remaining compliant with certain restrictions); 
  • Including information regarding health warnings;
  • Listing THC/CBD content;
  • Use of the cannabis symbol. 

While packaging and labeling is not typically reviewed by Health Canada beforehand, these are among the guidelines they have stipulated.

Examples of packaging guidelines include plain packaging and health warnings

Those learning about cannabis retail in Ontario should also be aware that Health Canada prohibits anyone from selling cannabis if:

  • the labeling and/or packaging fails to meet the Regulations’ criteria
  • it depicts a real or fictional person, animal, or character
  • contains an endorsement of any kind
  • appears to explicitly appeal to young people
  • is associated with “a way of life such as one that includes glamour, recreation, excitement, vitality, risk, or daring”

These are the five general prohibitions for packaging and labeling, but are not all of the prohibitions Health Canada lists. For example, producers are also prohibited from including false information on packaging.

Any cannabis sold in retail must not violate any packaging and labeling prohibitions

How Cannabis Retail Compliance Affects the Process

For a student in a program relating to cannabis, understanding how cannabis retail compliance works is essential. Health Canada also has guidelines in place for compliance, which include certain restrictions for cannabis that is sold in both recreational and medical contexts. 

These retail compliance regulations can vary by province. In Ontario, for example, all cannabis retailers are required to submit compliance reports of three different types, after being provided first to the AGCO. These are:

    • Federal Report, listing all products in their inventory and movement for each item within the month, which is later sent to Health Canada.
    • Periodic Report, which retailers must submit on a weekly basis, to report movement on inventory throughout that week.
    • Sales Report, which reports the sales for items sold by that retailer within the month, as well as those items’ starting and closing inventory amounts.

      Cannabis retailers in Ontario must submit three types of compliance reports

Additionally, since cannabis legalization only came into effect in Canada in October 2018, there has been no precedent for how to legalize it on a federal level. Therefore, compliance reports are seen as the guideposts which municipal, provincial, and federal governments will use with regards to cannabis retail licensing.

All retailers must be certain that their products and all aspects of their business are compliant with regulations, be respectful toward Health Canada staff (as these staff monitor these retailers’ activities with regards to their compliance with the Cannabis Act), and that even those who do not need a license understand how their activities must remain legally compliant.

If compliance criteria are not met, there are multiple measures to be taken. These include Health Canada-initiated measures (e.g. warning letters, revoking or suspending licenses, financial penalties, public advisories, seizures, and product recalls), or any voluntary actions the regulated party has committed to themselves. This is so that Health Canada can regulate cannabis retail while considering various risk factors to the public and the retailer’s actions and behaviour.

Want to get your cannabis retail license?

Contact the Academy of Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences to learn how!



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