With the growth of the Missouri cannabis industry and the passage of adult-use marijuana in sight, state regulators and operators should make a concerted effort to create new standards for packaging.
Generally speaking, the cannabis industry, marijuana specifically, creates more waste per item than nearly any other product in a retail setting.
In Missouri, Packaging requirements are met at every corner. Consumers are required to have exit bags, packages must be opaque, they must contain a litany of warning labels, stickers, child-resistant safety measures, and in the case of many products – packaging must be resealable.
In Vermont, the legal marijuana industry kicked off on October 1, 2022. One thing that Vermont did that should be a signal call to the rest of the industry?
The state requires companies to use recyclable, non-plastic containers.
Cannabis products in the state must be packaged in metal, glass, or cardboard containers.
Generally speaking, plastic is cheap
The not-so-secret secret of legal marijuana is that the industry has a tremendous carbon footprint; from energy costs to waste, marijuana is a commodity that, to this point, has not had the best reputation for environmental impact.
While a move to more environmentally conscious packaging would be costly to implement, Missouri has the opportunity to ease into it.
By creating new standards and inviting input from existing operators, Missouri has the opportunity to become a trailblazer in creating sustainability in one of the quickest-growing industries globally.
The changing cannabis consumer
As we look at the growing demographics of cannabis and marijuana users, one thing is apparent – we are well beyond the typical stoner trope.
More and more consumers are health-conscious individuals looking for better ways to medicate or enjoy life. Many of those same consumers are increasingly concerned with the environmental impact of the products they consume.
Those consumers are increasingly inclined to purchase products that come in packaging reflective of the product inside.
The path forward
The marijuana industry has become synonymous with exorbitant energy use and a pattern of acceptance of single-use plastics and layers of packaging, contributing to the further degradation of the environment.
In Vermont, the move is met with both praise and resistance – in part because of the lack of input by operators and a lack of clarity surrounding what does and does not work regarding the abrupt regulation of recyclable packaging.
In Missouri, regulators have the opportunity to approach and partner with existing operators and potential new operators to create both pragmatic solutions and a realistic timeline for implementation.
Cannabis operators, generally speaking, are inclined to support measures that reduce waste and ensure sustainability. We have seen a shift in cultivation facilities to more environmentally conscious grow methods, lighting fixtures, and an industry-wide movement to reduce and regulate pesticides, and other substances that can cause contamination products as well as surrounding soil and wastewater.
But the key to making changes that hold lasting impact is something somewhat unique to Missouri. The Department of Health and Senior Services Section for medical marijuana Regulation has developed a reputation for its willingness to welcome, and listen to, feedback from state-licensed operators as well as the public. In many legal states, operators are tasked with finding solutions to rules and regulations on short notice, at times with little to no advance notice. And on more than a few occasions with no input from operators.
SMMR Director, Lyndall Fraker, and his team have toured facilities and worked closely with licensees in the years since the first licenses were awarded. Now is the time for those same regulators to partner with the state’s operators to create a combined vision of an environmentally friendly industry.
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