How to read the label on your legal cannabis

Why is THC content shown twice? What's up with that stop sign logo? Your questions, answered.


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So, you went down to the store and bought some legal cannabis. Congratulations!

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/10/2018 (1612 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

So, you went down to the store and bought some legal cannabis. Congratulations!

Now, it’s time to decode the mystery of Canada’s legal cannabis packaging:

1. Colour

According to federal regulations, the exterior of cannabis packages must be one uniform colour. The inside can be a different colour.

2. Excise tax stamp

This special stamp indicates that the cannabis manufacturer has paid the federal cannabis excise tax to the Canada Revenue Agency.

That tax revenue gets split between the federal and provincial governments, with the provinces getting 75 per cent.

Each stamp has a unique identifying number, and is colour-coded to the jurisdiction where the cannabis is to be sold.

3. Standardized Cannabis Symbol

Health Canada’s warning symbol must appear on any cannabis product that contains more than a negligible amount of THC.

That’s short for delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol — it’s the primary chemical compound in cannabis that gets you high.

The symbol must be at least 1.27 square centimetres in size.

4. Strain name

The type of dried cannabis contained within the package. (This one’s called Cold Creek Kush.)

Strain names aren’t regulated and don’t mean anything in and of themselves, but they’ve long been applied to different varietals of cannabis to help distinguish between them.

5. Brand name and logo

Licensed cannabis producers in Canada have taken to branding their product lines with names and logos.

Since Health Canada’s promotional restrictions on cannabis are so tight, this is one of the few opportunities for weed companies to communicate brand information to their customers.

6. THC and CBD content

THC and CBD are two key cannabinoids, chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant that act upon human physiology. (There are actually well over 100 cannabinoids in cannabis, but THC and CBD are the best-understood at this point.)

Government-regulated cannabis packaging must display THC and CBD content as two separate figures. The initial, smaller number represents the actual amount of THC or CBD contained in the dried cannabis. The second, larger per cent figure represents how much THC or CBD the cannabis yields after the cannabinoids are activated by heat (for example, by smoking, vaporizing or cooking it). In other words, it’s the larger figure that really matters to consumers.

In terms of potency, anything from 0 to 10 per cent THC might be considered relatively weak, while anything from 10 to 20 per cent THC would be moderately strong stuff by today’s standards. THC content approaching 30 per cent would be quite potent for dried cannabis bud.

7. Warning label

All legal cannabis packages must feature these black-on-yellow warning labels with specific warning messages from Health Canada — each one contains a primary warning sentence followed by a secondary sentence.

The full list of warning messages is available here.

8. Strain description and terpene description

This optional information includes the producer’s description of the strain of cannabis inside the package, plus the primary terpene content of the cannabis.

Terpenes are smelly, oily compounds produced by many plants, including cannabis.

9. Net weight

How much cannabis is in the package, measured in grams.

10. Packaging date and expiry date

Cannabis producers can only include an expiry date for their products if they have specific data about the stability period of their product.

Otherwise, it’s acceptable to print the phrase, “No expiry date has been determined.”

11. Recommended storage conditions

Where should you keep your cannabis?  (Our advice columnist Herb recommends an airtight container in a cool, dark place for dried bud, but producers might have other recommendations.)

12. Producer information

The name of the company that produced the cannabis.

By regulation, packages must include a phone number and email address for the producer.

13. Child safety warning

All cannabis packages must contain the statement: “KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN / TENIR HORS DE LA PORTEE DES ENFANTS”.

14. Lot number

This information could be useful in the event that a cannabis producer recalls its product.

15. Opening instructions

Since cannabis containers must meet a government childproofing standard, producers are allowed to include a black-and-white image with opening instructions.   



Updated on Thursday, October 25, 2018 8:48 PM CDT: Corrects erroneous description of the conversion of THCA to THC.

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