As with any relatively new, or in this case, newly legalized industry, cannabis is ripe with possibilities for innovation. Ironically the very U.S. federal laws that create some confusion over legality and in turn a lack of federal standards can be an advantage for innovation in the packaging sector. Accommodating the many various state regulations rules can lead to new solutions.
For instance, one of the most significant challenges when medical marijuana first obtained legal status was smell-proof packaging. Many packaging suppliers who felt they had ready-made solutions found their products failed to contain the cannabis smell. Further compounding the issue was that the cannabis smell becomes stronger the higher the quality and concentration. Cannabis producers sought out packaging suppliers at trade shows to find suppliers willing to work with them to develop higher quality bags that could contain the odors.
Child-proof packaging remains a significant focus for industry innovation leading to experimentation with containers that have combination locks that are web-enabled and connected to physician’s offices. If successful and cost-effective, this innovation could easily cross-pollinate over into the pharmaceutical and medical devices industry.
Some cannabis companies are struggling with production of vape pen cartridges, which account for approximately 30 percent of cannabis sales. Recent research revealed that the propylene glycol (PG) liquid that cannabis oils are suspended in when put in vape pens may cause “popcorn lung” if used over a long period, such as for patients using marijuana for chronic pain management. There is a significant concern among cannabis producers that PG could face banishment in some states in the future, and they have begun looking for alternative suspension systems for delivery of the cannabis oil. This anxiety has already led to opportunities in the medical device industry as the Toronto-based Resolve Digital recently received the first cannabis-related medical device license under Canada’s new regulatory system. Billed as a “smart” vaporizer, the Resolve MD assists the patient in taking control of their healthcare, utilizing technology that ensures consistent dosing. Resolve is partnering with licensed producers to pre-fill proprietary pods with pre-selected cannabis formulations that are then simply inserted into the device. Beyond devices, Resolve is also developing an app that assists patients in capturing data on medical conditions, prescriptions, family history, lifestyle and dose effectiveness. These data points can improve the medical cannabis treatment experience for patients and caregivers.
From machinery to materials to inks, the home of the most diverse collection of innovation to meet the packaging needs of the cannabis industry is PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2019 and the co-located Healthcare Packaging EXPO (Sept. 23-25; Las Vegas Convention Center.) Both owned and produced by PMMI, the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies the show convenes 2,000 exhibitors spanning over 900,000 net square feet of exhibit space, offering opportunities to view answers to cannabis packaging challenges. In addition to the aisles of solutions, cannabis professionals will have access to free, on-floor educational sessions at three different Innovation Stage locations.
To register and learn more, visit packexpolasvegas.com.