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According to the 2021 Leafly Jobs Report, “Legal cannabis now supports 321,000 full-time American jobs.” The report goes on to say that “Despite a year marked by a global pandemic, spiking unemployment, and economic recession, the legal cannabis industry added 77,300 full-time jobs in the United States. That represents 32% year-over-year job growth, an astonishing figure in the worst year for US economic growth since World War II. Outside the cannabis industry, the US economy shrank by 3.5%, the unemployment rate almost doubled, and nearly 10 million Americans saw their jobs disappear.”

Despite the encouraging numbers above, the current state of the cannabis may be best described as the Wild West.

Enter Nick McCormick: He is a Packaging Consultant at Taylor Prime Labels & Packaging Group. He is also on the packaging and labeling committee of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). The NCIA believes all packaging should have an even playing field for all producers nationwide (including cannabis producers). They make recommendations to that end. The NCIA shares their research with the DEA, the FDA and the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau).

Correspondent:

Why do you describe the cannabis packaging industry in the U.S. as the Wild West?

McCormick:

Because marijuana is not a legalized nationally and, therefore, not federally controlled. Every state that is legal for adult use or medical use has its own packaging regulations. For example, for all our MSO (multi state operators) clients that have licensing in Colorado, Massachusetts, Florida, Maine, Oregon, and Illinois, I must produce different boxes and labels and pouches based on their shipping destination and where they are cultivated. I am producing different boxes in Colorado than I am for Massachusetts. It is crazy.

Correspondent:

Can you be more specific?

McCormick:

In Illinois for instance, every word we print on a pouch must be in both English and Spanish. In another state, I am required to print all the rules and regulations, so these labels are like miniature booklets. You peel it back and it is a 10-page book. And to make matters worse, no agency is monitoring the cannabis industry at the state level. It really is the Wild West. It has been hard to navigate from a printer perspective.

Correspondent:

If it is the Wild West, then why is Taylor Prime Labels involved in the industry?

McCormick:

I got Taylor involved in the industry because a) we are privately held and b) our largest competitors in the printing world are not playing in this ocean because they are publicly traded. Their shareholders shy away from cannabis products. We are also in the cannabis industry because we believe we can truly make a difference.

Correspondent:

How are you making a difference?

McCormick:

I put on my suit and tie and go to Capitol Hill and lobby for the industry. As a representative of the NCIA, I have been lobbying for the Safe Banking Act, the Moore Act, and against the Section 280 E. of the tax code. 280e is the excess tax (40%) that all these cannabis companies are having to pay in what they call an illicit industry. We think it is an unfair tax that unnecessarily punishes people in the industry and hurts the economy in their respective states.

Correspondent:

What is the Safe Banking Act and the Moore Act, and how will they help the cannabis industry if passed?

McCormick:

Moore Act decriminalizes marijuana, removing it from the list of scheduled substances. The Safe Banking Act prohibits a federal banking regulator from penalizing a depository institution (bank, credit union) for providing banking services to a legitimate cannabis-related business. For example, I have a client in Colorado who must pay his staff in cash. Another dispensary that I work with pays $25,000 a month just to have an account with a credit union.

Correspondent:

What is the chance that the Moore Act, the Safe Banking Act, and 280e pass Congress?

McCormick:

The Moore Act and the Safe Banking Act have passed the House. We are waiting on the Senate to vote on both. I think they will pass in the 117th Congress before Biden’s term is over. It is the right thing to do for people in the industry who want to be legitimate and follow the rules. If both bills pass, you are going to watch the industry explode.
Let us discuss the packaging, more specifically the pouches that you produce for the cannabis dispensaries.

Correspondent:

You mentioned that each state has its own packaging regulations. Do all states require a child resistant (CR) package?

McCormick:

Nothing in writing.

Correspondent:

What makes it a CR package?

McCormick:

It has a certain thickness, robust for child protection, and has a childproof zipper?

Correspondent:

Does a company need to get CR certified as a manufacturing facility? If so, how does a company become certified?

McCormick:

Therein lies the rub. To be a child resistant certified manufacturing facility for every size pouch you make, the fee is $15,000. There are nearly 100 different pouch sizes. We also produce cartons at Taylor. If I have a client that wants to build a carton to put a can of tincture into, it costs $15 grand to get that printer certified to print that carton.

Correspondent:

The cost seems unmanageable. Is there a solution?

McCormick:

If it were standardized across country. I hate to see the industry go from one minute saying you must be certified for all pouches, and then the FDA wraps their heads around it, and they say, “No more CR.” Taylor would have spent maybe 100 grand on something that is unnecessary. It is like a crystal ball. Every morning I get up and say, “Let us see what happens in cannabis today.”

Correspondent:

Is anything be done presently to help mitigate the packaging dilemma?

McCormick:

I sit on a packaging and labeling committee for the biggest cannabis organization in the world. We make recommendations on how all these products should be packaged in every state to have an even playing field. One possible solution is being considered in Colorado. They are experimenting with single-use packages. Because it is a single-use package, CR regulations do not apply. A vape pen cartridge, for example, can be in a single-use package.

Correspondent:

Will that help?

McCormick:

A little, but it will not solve many of the problems. For example, if we want to make single-use packaging for chocolates, every piece of chocolate must be individually foil wrapped. You have a lot of companies are not getting into chocolate because of the high labor cost.
Correspondent: When cannabis become legalized federally, what organization should oversee it?

McCormick:

I think it will be treated much like alcohol. The government should build an agency like the TTB and not allow the DEA or the FDA to regulate it. If the FDA regulates it, it will be like going to a pharmacy. My prediction is that the federal government will develop an agency called something like the Cannabis Commission.

Correspondent:

Final Thoughts?

McCormick:

There is a lot of misinformation and misconception about cannabis. Take the time to educate yourself on its medical benefits and its history. Did you know that the Declaration of Independence and the Gutenberg Bible were printed on hemp, or that the first U.S. flag ever sewn was 100% hemp? Take the time to learn about Charlotte Figi. How her family was forced to move from her home state, where cannabis was illegal, to Colorado so that she could take CBD (cannabis oil) to treat her seizures from Dravat syndrome. Education is the key to understanding.

Need help with your cannabis packaging? RSN can help you design, reengineer, and/or source your cannabis packaging. Learn more about our packaging solution here.