New York Cannabis: Are Proposed Regulations for Sustainable Packaging Too Strict?

New York's proposed packaging requirements for cannabis are a bit intense.
New York's proposed packaging requirements for cannabis are a bit intense. /

This past June the New York Cannabis Control Board released a draft of regulations that addresses packaging, marketing, advertising, and testing labs for the state’s market. 

At a glance, the regulations seem thorough and sustainably-minded – something the entire industry is beginning to strive for with vigor. However, some experts and operators believe New York is being more stringent than necessary when compared to other legal states, especially around the sustainability guidelines.

Sustainability is a huge issue for the cannabis industry, however is this the right way to go about it?

Public comment on the draft regulation is open until August 15, 2022.

Are New York’s Proposed Regulations for Sustainable Packing Too Strict?

Cannabis legalization has gradually rolled out across the U.S. for the past few decades, and with that has come a disarray of regulatory efforts.

A state will propose a legal cannabis program, exciting consumers and operators in the region while implying endless possibilities for the industry. Then, regulations will roll out that are ass-backwards, convoluted, and unnecessarily complex enough to practically render the legalization of cannabis moot. 

It’s a tale as old as…well, the legal weed industry.

Despite this discouraging trend, operators have remained optimistic about New York, as the progressive state has demonstrated a desire to implement social equity and structure a program that is beneficial for everyone involved: consumers, operators, and the government. 

However, the New York Cannabis Control Board’s proposal for packaging, labeling, and marketing regulations has the rest of the industry feeling like their initial optimism was ill-founded and naive.

A lot of the newly proposed regulations on packaging, labeling, and marketing, and advertising make sense and mirror what other states have done. The draft will require operators to utilize labels that are child-proof and clearly not attractive for consumers under the age of 21, and packaging that is pre-approved as environmentally sustainable.

But it doesn’t end there.

Licensees must propose reuse strategies for collecting reusable packaging components (after ensuring they were sanitized and disinfected), and outline a sustainable packaging strategy that uses “non-plastic, compostable, or recyclable materials,” or “packaging materials that exceed 25 percent post-consumer recycled content.”

Licensees will also be required to annually report on their packaging, including the total amount of packaging material sold or distributed into the state in the prior calendar year, and the total cost of the material. 

Will Operators Be Able to Comply?

On paper, this sounds like a fantastic initiative that will help move the entire industry closer and closer towards mass conscious sustainability. But the reality is, these requirements will pose a lot of logistical challenges and legal pressure for operators to have to worry about – on top of everything they already have to consider in order to remain compliant – and it won’t even result in that sustainable of a market.

If 25 percent is the minimum requirement for sustainable packaging, it’ll be easy enough for operators to source and comply, but this won’t make a dent in the greater environmental problems this world is scrambling to resolve. 

Instead, the strategy requirements will create much more work for operators in the state, making it that much harder to get up and running. 

Seasoned operators in the space are scratching their heads at these proposed regulations, as it’s clear they’ll do very little for the environment and instead create plenty of opportunities for the government to intervene in the industry. 

New Yorkers have until August 15 to weigh in on the proposed language, and hopefully enough experts will recognize the holes in this plan before it’s too late. 

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