“You can use your teeth if you want to”
The man is watching a pair of 4-year-olds, sitting in the reading nook of their daycare, struggling to get the lids off small bottles filled with beans. He is watching them and the clock. At exactly five minutes he demonstrates for them, opening one of the bottles himself.
He has done this hundreds of times, with hundreds of kids. So he knows that when he adds that scripted note, “you can use your teeth if you want to,” most of the children will try it that way. They get five more minutes. Sometimes, one of the kids will get a bottle open and a bright pile of colored beans will tumble out, clattering onto the floor. Their faces beam with success. But success for them is failure for the test.
Since the early 1970s, this is how testing for child resistant packages has been done. And it has worked. Thousands of people are alive today because, as curious preschoolers, they were unable to pry open a medication bottle they came across at home. Tens-of-thousands were saved trips to the emergency room for the same reason. But the times they are a changin’. From 2007 to 2016, local poison centers around the U.S. reported a 555 percent increase in calls about accidental exposure to marijuana products among children aged 5 and under.
The state of California has prioritized keeping kids away from recreational marijuana products. Not only do the laws prohibit packaging that’s appealing to children, marijuana packages also can’t be easily opened by kids if they do get ahold of one. Packages must be child resistant. It’s given rise a niche industry, and companies who specialize in creating marijuana packaging are preparing for a big change.
Let’s talk about “exit bags.” These are the bags most cannabis products (excluding seeds and immature plants) are packaged in for customers before they leave the dispensary. Cannabis exit bags must be opaque, so no one can see what’s inside. And for the next year, those bags must also be resealable and child resistant. In other words, through 2019, the exit bag will be the extra level of security between a toddler and a marijuana product. The container for a marijuana product itself, inside the exit bag, will only need to be tamper evident — most often that’s a sicker, sealing the container’s lid to show if it’s been opened.
On January 1, 2020 that will change. Exit bags will no longer need to be resealable or child resistant. Instead, the product packaging itself will need to meet those requirements. Most cannabis products sold in 2020 must be in child resistant, tamper evident, resealable packaging. That means some of the burden of keeping kids away from accidental exposure to pot will shift from the dispensary, to the grower or manufacturer.
There is no such thing as a child-proof package. Even in those tests created by the Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970, a passing package can still be cracked open by 15 percent to 20 percent of 4-year-olds. Parents and marijuana users need to be diligent about keeping marijuana packages out of the hands of children now, and in the future. And when it comes to what the new marijuana packages will look like in 2020, there are lots of ideas already being tested. The change in rules is certainly giving the California cannabis industry something to sink its teeth into.