Leading the Revolution in Child-Resistant Packaging

New innovations abound for cannabis packaging

For the past fifty years, changes in child-resistant packaging have been evolutionary, not revolutionary – with push-and-twist caps remaining the standard. With the legalization of cannabis for recreational use in some states and medical use in others, innovation has finally arrived.

Child-resistant packaging is receiving a makeover. The many packaging needs of all varieties of cannabis products are pushing designers to re-think ways to remain compliant, without sacrificing creativity. In the U.S. and many other countries, to make the claim that a package is child-resistant, it must meet the proper testing criteria of “special packaging,” as indicated in the U.S. code of federal regulations. To pass the test, 85 percent of children under 51 months old have to be unable to open the package before seeing a demonstration, and 80 percent have to be unable to open it after an adult shows them how it works. Also, 90 percent of adults between the ages of 50 and 70 must be able to successfully open the package. Additionally, some state regulations require that packaging must be tamper-evident.

In some states “exit pouches” are required at the point of purchase – often meaning placing the primary package in a hard-to-open bag or pouch with a certified, child-resistant feature. The concern about the safety of children has led to new rules and the introduction of special packaging, including tamper-resistant droppers, slide boxes, tins, blunt tubes and even little jars that look like contact lens cases.

The traditional vial with the screw top and a diagram of how to open the vial embossed in the plastic is disappearing. Walnut, bamboo or ash screw tops are replacing traditional white plastics. Mylar envelopes have built-in zippers, boxes have slide-out sheaths and glass containers come with exotic tops.

Space on labels is also becoming a challenge since required information about THC content, provenance, dosage, etc., leaves less room for branding. To accommodate these regulations, cannabis manufacturers are removing the picture on the top showing how to open the bottle and using the space for branding purposes. These new containers feature closures that are smooth on top.

Brands now subscribe to the mantra that packaging can be both child-resistant and beautifully designed. They are working with packaging designers to create safe, attractive products. Options are no longer limited to awkward boxes, repurposed jars or pharmaceutical containers. Cannabis packaging can be as unique as each individual brand. Cannabis is now tucked into dark top vials or windowed envelopes lined with scent blocking mylar. Black glass jars with child-resistant caps protect the product against oxidation from sunlight and are childproof at the same time.

Flexible pouches, frequently with multiple layers in a laminated structure, offer non-tear, moisture-resistant and smell-proof features, and sometimes include child-resistant “squeeze-and-slide” features as well.

Companies continually look for multi-use packaging that accomplishes several goals at once – reducing waste, cutting costs and achieving compliance. To accomplish this, bottles are in development that look like cosmetic products but are child-resistant. As an example, dome-shaped closures for CBD creams give products the polish found in packages from a cosmetic maker.

Custom branded packaging for cannabis flowers is helping increase brand recognition in this expanding market. Customized wood, glass, metal or smell-proof bags are being developed specifically to package flowers. Barrier concerns, such as moisture, odor, light and shelf-life, in child-resistant stand-up pouches are being addressed with the use of nylon or metallization.

Another area of packaging design innovation for cannabis is in vapors and extracts. Branding and packaging differentiate one vape line from another. Experiential packaging is also becoming a vital part of the customer experience.

Edibles are a key market for child-resistant packaging. Children are attracted to packaging that they believe contains candy or chocolate. Boxes, exit bags, metal tins and plastic containers for edibles are being designed to make the contents hard to access to even the most persistent children. One example of child-resistant packaging for edibles that has gained some market traction is the CRATIV case – a food-grade plastic case that has to be pressed on the sides and the front to open.

Since the needs of concentrates and cosmetic packaging have similarities, some cosmetic packaging designers have transitioned from makeup to cannabis. That said, due to changing regulations, further innovation is necessary to add child-resistant features to concentrate containers. Concentrates such as hash, dab, rosin, wax, crumble and shatter are being packaged in new and creative ways to meet child-resistant standards and attract consumers.

Aesthetics, functionality, sustainability and legal compliance all need to be considered when designing packaging for cannabis products. As more states legalize recreational and medical use of cannabis, packaging innovation to meet all these needs will continue to increase.

Only at PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2019 and co-located Healthcare Packaging EXPO (Sept. 23-25; Las Vegas Convention Center), can you find the diversity of packaging to meet the needs of this diverse market. 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 new innovations in child-resistant cannabis packaging. 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 hcpelasvegas.com.

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