Some cannabis buyers are complaining the bulky packaging is environmentally unfriendly, but producers say government guidelines are to blame.
Greg MacLean, who picked up some newly legal cannabis at the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation last week, was shocked to see how much packaging was used for four grams of weed: two plastic containers, two cardboard boxes, and clear plastic casing, all enclosed in a brown paper bag.
“My initial reaction was a bit of shock that such little amount of plant matter came with so much packaging,’’ he said.
“I’m a medical user of marijuana as well and I’ve been buying from different dispensaries online from certified providers and nothing comes like that. Like, ever. Crazy. It’s unneeded.’’
Similar complaints about excessing packaging of cannabis at the government store in Kamloops have been raised online.
As per Health Canada’s guidelines, packaging must prevent contamination of the cannabis, be tamper-proof, and be child-resistant — a step up from the plastic baggies the product was often sold in before legalization.
“Do they really need to have that?’’ asked MacLean. “I mean, no liquor bottles that they sell has a childproof cap on it and a bottle of vodka would kill a child.’’
Candace MacDonald also bought cannabis on legalization day and was similarly shocked when she got home and unboxed her products, which also came in layers of packaging. She bought 5.5 grams and each strain came in different containers.
Out of curiosity, she weighed the “very hard plastic container’’ for a single gram she bought and was appalled to find it outweighed the product by nearly 40 times — 38 grams of packaging for one gram of weed.
“And once you open it, it’s just such overkill. There’s one itty-bitty bud in it and I could probably pack half an ounce in there,’’ she said.
Allan Rewak, executive director of the Cannabis Council of Canada, said the industry has been concerned about potential waste diversion problems “for a while,’’ but also understands Health Canada’s caution.
Rewak said all packaging and warning signs have to be of certain dimensions and also childproof, which add to the amount of materials used.
“It has to include real estate, so to speak, to include all the warning labels and warning signs, as well as an excise stamp that the federal government prescribes,’’ he said. “The good news is most of the product packaging is recyclable.’’
Rewak, whose organization represents licensed producers of medical cannabis, said the industry would like to work with the government to reduce packaging.
He said warnings can be included on an insert within packaging that is already sealed with an excise stamp.
“This is something that we are going to have to look at in time, particularly as sales continue to increase because we don’t want this to be a contributor to the degradation of our environment — in fact we’d like it to be the opposite.’’
Asked for comment, Health Canada spokesperson Maryse Durette provided a link to cannabis regulations and asked that any further questions about how provinces choose to adhere to their regulations be directed to the provinces.
She would not provide further comments on environmental concerns.
— Canadian Press