How to Label Cannabis Products the Easy Way

July 19, 2021

That task of labeling — the seemingly simple process of applying an accurate, compliant label — poses big problems for cannabis product manufacturers.

Manufacturers must navigate the tricky task of labeling themselves, by ordering pre-printed labels in rolls, or they can work with a third-party service provider to have it done for them.

But, depending on your situation, “on-demand labeling” might be a better way to approach the problem. On-demand labeling is the practice of printing the labels right there on the production line with your own printer rather than stocking an inventory of labels for all your products. 

Read on to see if on-demand labeling can help you overcome your labeling troubles.

The Difficulties of Cannabis Labeling 

It seems everything is harder for cannabis business owners. For normal consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers, ordering labels in bulk saves money. The more you print, the cheaper the price per label becomes.

But for cannabis manufacturers, regulations often change suddenly, making their stockpiles of labels and pre-labeled packages useless. 

Legislators amend cannabis laws by adding requirements to improve consumer safety. Yet they have little foresight into how sudden changes can impact businesses.

California Proposition 65

California recently implemented Proposition 65, which left cannabis cultivators scrambling. The law, which mandates labels for a variety of cancer-causing chemicals, also applies to cannabis flower. The tar in cannabis smoke can contain carcinogens.

Many cannabis products sold in california now require a label with a yellow triangle and this warning: WARNING: Cancer – For more information about how Prop 65 applies to your product, click the link above.

Moreover, some products like flower naturally vary in their labeling requirements because of potency fluctuations. The solution to this constant problem is usually a secondary label applied per-batch based on test results.

Labeling dynamics that can trip up manufacturers include:

  • Multiples flavors and strains
  • Multiple size and potency configurations
  • Lot numbers, RFID info and bar codes
  • Expiration dates
  • Potency levels
  • Local regulations

Brands expanding across state lines (via licensing deals) will face multiple sets of labeling requirements. While the essentials — potency, quantity, etc. — will remain the same, each state has its quirks. 

One of the most frequent state-to-state differences is the “THC!” symbol that must be included on all packages. It’s usually triangular, but the format varies, as does the symbol’s required size. Some states restrict the colors and iconography permitted on packages. Others go so far as to dictate which fonts are acceptable.

How On-Demand Printing Helps

Better inventory management is the biggest benefit of on-demand labeling. When you print your own labels, you can avoid large minimum order quantities of pre-printed labels. 

On-demand labeling sidesteps the risk of wasted inventory. And you don’t have working capital tied up in rolls of labels or pre-labeled packaging sitting in the back room.

With on-demand printing, when requirements change, modifying your labels is as easy as modifying a digital image file.

You’re not stuck with an inventory of worthless labels if regulations shift. And if you want to change your product line or ingredients, you don’t need to use your back inventory of labels first.

Benefits of On-Demand Labeling

  • No wasted inventory when regulations change
  • Capital not tied up in inventory
  • No over-printing waste
  • Don’t have to wait for labels to be delivered
  • Ability to experiment with new flavors, ingredients, etc.
  • Serialization and seed-to-sale tracking capabilities

Serialization helps prevent cannabis counterfeiting — an increasing problem in the industry. On-demand printers can easily give batches QR codes to verify their authenticity. And when seed-to-sale tracking applies, on-demand lets you integrate your batch number into your primary label.

Limitations of On-Demand Labeling

Print-on-demand isn’t for everyone. Some manufacturers — especially those delivering high volumes of goods — may prefer to pre-print or outsource.

Drawbacks of On-Demand Printing

  • Upfront cost of on-demand printer
  • Some printers may be restricted to pre-programmed templates
  • Limited printing technologies/printable materials limit options
  • Some may prefer outsourcing package-labeling tasks to a third party

General Tips for Cannabis Labeling

Consider the label material

Semi-gloss paper saves you money, but your brand may suffer. These labels are not water resistant, and they tear and scuff easily. (They’re the type of label that is difficult to peel off without leaving behind a residue and a torn label.)

Biaxially oriented polypropylene (BOPP) labels are more durable. They’re a plastic label that resists oil and water. BOPP labels have a variety of finishes such as eggshell-matte for better branding.

Brand enhancement

A label is a first impression — not an opportunity to cut costs. Customers size you up based on your label and packaging, and it takes them less than one second to form an opinion about an unfamiliar brand.

Does it stick?

Not all labels adhere to all surfaces. Inexpensive paper labels may fall off your packages, especially when refrigerated. This situation is a disaster for you or your retailer; the product will most likely need to be destroyed.

The substrate matters. Flexible surfaces such as pouches require different labels than polypropylene boxes. Talk to a package engineer or labeling specialist about compatibility before investing in a label/package combination.

Follow the rules

The onus is on you to keep pace with your local requirements. If your company has a chief compliance officer, make sure labeling accuracy is on their to-do list. 

You’ll find lists of state-by-state cannabis labeling requirements online, but don’t trust them blindly. It’s hard to keep those up to date with so many markets evolving and coming online. 

Only your state regulatory site is trustworthy. Check back frequently, and if they offer any sort of email subscription, make sure to sign up. It’s in everyone’s interest to publicize new regulations, and states do so through email notifications.

Let your AssurPack® representative know if you need help connecting with a labeling expert. Our network of industry contacts extends across most state markets. 

If on-demand printing isn’t for you, we can ship your AssurPack® products directly to a third-party labeling service. That way, your order shows up at your door ready to fill.Ready to get started with new packaging? Contact an AssurPack® representative now.