California’s universal symbol warning a product contains THC.

What are the Guidelines for THC Warning Labels?

Since the Rohrabacher–Farr amendment was signed into law in 2014, it has been up to states to determine the legal requirements for cannabis products. Unfortunately, since laws are on a state-by-state basis, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) warning label requirements also vary. The University of Michigan released a study on THC warning labels and label requirements called “Requirements for Cannabis Product Labeling by U.S. State,” offering suggestions for clearer labeling. While legislatures use this paper to prepare new cannabis packaging laws, today’s labeling requirements differ depending on the state. We’re here to help you ensure that you can meet the requirements for medical marijuana and recreational marijuana products.

What Regulations Do I Need to Follow for My Cannabis Labels?

Since the legal status of cannabis products is handled at a state level, each state has its own labeling requirements. Typically, a cannabis warning symbol is required, telling buyers the product contains THC or other cannabinoids.

Most states also require public health statements about the detrimental health effects of the product and may require additional required information, such as the amount of cannabinoids per dose. There are usually different regulations for recreational products, medical cannabis, and bulk shipments. For example, Colorado requires an RFID tag on all bulk packages shipped to dispensaries that identify the shipment’s source and contents.

Free Download: Get state-by-state labeling regulations to learn about the requirements for your labels.

In most states, medical products are subject to lower taxes and may have a lower age limit. Even if you sell products in a recreational state, it may be worth developing THC labels that meet medical requirements to increase access for therapeutic use.

The 2018 Farm Bill categorizes cannabis products with less than 0.3% as “industrial hemp.” These products do not need to follow state laws regarding THC products. Most CBD products fall under this category, with two exceptions. Full-spectrum products usually contain more THC than allowed by the Farm Bill. Any product derived from marijuana, even if the final product contains less than 0.3% THC, still falls under marijuana laws. If you want to learn more about CBD labeling, read our blog “Keys to Successfully Navigate CBD Labeling Requirements.”

All applicable FDA regulations apply, no matter where products are sold. While there aren’t cannabis-specific regulations, you still need to follow the regulations for the type of product, whether it’s a food, topical, vape, or supplement.

Today, the only cannabinoid product approved for drug use in the United States is cannabidiol, and it’s only approved for Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. All other medical products fall under expanded access, better known as “compassionate use.” Typically, medical cannabis labels require a warning statement that the product is for medical use only and must discourage recreational use of the product.

What Goes on a Compliant Label?

Laws are changing constantly as states change the legal status of cannabis. Recently, we’ve seen Ohio, Virginia, and Minnesota pass bills to legalize recreational sales. Over the next few months, lawmakers will work out the details of labels, including required warning labels. Be sure to check the latest government sources, as well as proposed bills, so you can ensure compliant labels. That said, there are a few design requirements you can expect for THC warning labels in any state.

Universal Symbols: Informing Consumers at a Glance

In the early days of legalization, it wasn’t uncommon for people to unintentionally consume THC-containing products or take the wrong dose. To avoid this problem, most states have adopted large universal warning labels placed on the principal display panel. These symbols let consumers know the product contains THC at a glance. Despite the terms used for these symbols, their designs vary from state to state.

Five Common Cannabis Warning Label Designs

      1. An exclamation point and “THC” inside a diamond or triangle
      2. A triangle surrounding a marijuana leaf
      3. A rounded rectangle with an exclamation point and a marijuana leaf
      4. The statement “Not Safe for Kids” or “Not for Kids”
      5. “21+” surrounded by a red circle

All states require a symbol indicating THC content. Some states add the state name, “THC,” or “Marijuana” to these symbol labels. Age statements are always included alongside the main symbol when they’re required.

Be sure to read the regulations on THC warning labels carefully. There are often small, easy-to-miss differences between the formats used by different states. For example, Colorado and Florida both use identical THC diamond designs. However, while Florida requires red print for all products, Colorado uses black for edible marijuana-infused products and red for everything else. Washington requires a unique universal symbol: a red hand with the statements “NOT FOR KIDS” and “EMERGENCY (800) 222-1222.” This phone number is for the National Capital Poison Control.

Additional Warnings and Required Consumer Information

Information requirements vary widely, with up to 24 items required to be in full compliance. All states require THC content and manufacturer contact information. Some require batch numbers or unique SKUs and QR codes that allow for tracking of how the cannabis product was harvested and sold.

Required Information for Compliant Labels in Most States

      • A statement on health risks
      • A cannabis symbol
      • A statement on other cannabinoid content, including cannabidiol and CBD
      • A child safety disclaimer
      • An impairment disclaimer
      • Batch numbers and other ways to track production

Other state requirements may already be covered by FDA regulations, such as net weight and dye declarations.

Other states require the inclusion of the Poison Control number alongside information on what to do if the product is accidentally consumed, or if the user consumed too large of a dose. For example, New York requires a section on the information panel that lists this number alongside dosage warnings.

This information is split between the principal display panel and the information panel, which means you need unique front and back labels for every state you sell to. If you’re using a print-and-apply applicator, you may need to change where you add batch numbers and best-by dates to accommodate these different label designs. Fortunately, the PLCs on our machines handle print formatting, so you can simply switch between calibration settings when you switch labels.

Plain Packaging: Avoiding Confusion With Other Products

While placing large, identifiable THC warning labels helps adults identify cannabis products, that isn’t helpful for young children.

To keep kids from mistaking a THC-containing candy or chocolate for their favorite treat, some states have limits on package designs. For many states, you must use tamper-proof, child-resistant packaging and include phrases such as “Keep out of reach of children” and “For adult use only.” Many states forbid the use of design elements that resemble other commercially available products, such as common snacks and beverages, as well as any designs that would appeal to children. Many states forbid the use of the word “candy” or similar terms on the packaging or in the product name.

In the future, we’ll likely see more regulations like Missouri’s new rules on package design. Under this new requirement, covered in state regulation 19 CSR 100-1.120(1)(B)5, cannabis products are only allowed to have one primary package color with up to two logos or symbols with different colors. While this allows some flexibility, it prevents products from having the colorful designs typical of candy, soda, and snacks. These designs still need to be approved by the Department of Health and Human Services. However, the new rule takes the ambiguity out of design requirements, making it easier to get approval.

Get the Flexible Labeling Solutions You Need to Label Your Cannabis Products

Making sure your THC warning labels are compliant can be difficult – so the rest of your labeling process doesn’t need to be.

CTM Labeling Systems doesn’t just carry a wide range of pressure-sensitive labeling equipment. Everything we make is custom-built while still being flexible enough to adapt to production changes. Give us a call, and we’ll set you up with your local distributor. They can help you find the equipment and configuration that best fits your products, whether you’re labeling tincture vials, bottles, boxes, or cans.

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