HOW TO READ A CANNABIS LABEL

Depending on where you live, Cannabis has had quite the legal trajectory over the past decade; from being completely illegal, to legal for medical purposes, to being decriminalized. Now with legal cannabis available for purchase in brick and mortar stores and online across Canada, understanding the labeling is essential to finding the cannabis that is right for your individual needs. Here is an explanation of what the labels on cannabis products mean, and why they exist.

Why do cannabis products have labels?

It would be hard to find a product that doesn’t have some sort of consumer label, and cannabis is no exception. The packaging and labelling of legal recreational cannabis products are strictly regulated by Health Canada. All licensed producers of cannabis are required to have a label on every package that relays important information to consumers, which ensures every adult buying a cannabis product knows exactly what they’re buying.

What types of information are on a label?

A cannabis product label can seem a little intimidating to the untrained eye but learning what each individual piece of information stands for will help guarantee you get the product that you want. These labels must carry all vital data points, be easy to read and simple to understand. Labels also carry the standard elements that you would see on any product, including brand name, barcode, storage information and health warnings.

In addition to the name of the product, you’ll also find this important information on an average cannabis product label:

The strain types – Sativa, Indica or Hybrid

The first thing the label will tell you is what strain the product is. The three main categories of cannabis are sativa, indica and hybrid. Each strain comes with its own unique characteristics. If you’re new to cannabis, it’s important to start off by researching the effects of each strain (we offer lots of information about the typical characteristics of each).

Most strains have their own smell, flavour, colour and effects profiles. An experienced user will be able to distinguish these differences and narrow down what particular strains they enjoy the most or get the most benefits from.

 

Dates for when the product was packaged and when it expires

The two important dates to look for on a cannabis label are when the product was packaged and when it will expire. The packaged-on date refers to when the product was sealed in the packaging, and not when the product was harvested. Expiry dates typically refer to when the product may lose potency, not become unusable. Expiry dates are not a Health Canada regulation, but most licensed producers like to include this information.

How much the product weighs

Of course, you’ll want to know how much product you’ve purchased, which is why the weight is on the label. However, the weight is important to know for legal reasons, too. Due to Canadian law, people who are recreational smokers are legally only allowed to possess and have up to 30 grams of dried flower on them at any time. Keep in mind that the product weight listed on the label can be slightly off, as Health Canada does allow for dried flowers to have a weight variance of up to 10 percent in packages containing less than 2 grams. That variance decreases to five percent in packages of 2 grams or more. So, the product you receive may be slightly more or less than what you purchased.

Warning labels

All legal cannabis products will come in child-safe and tamper-proof containers. This is a requirement to help keep legal cannabis out of the hands of minors. Also, due to THC being an intoxicant, any product containing THC levels above 10 micrograms per gram are required to have a red icon that indicates the product has THC. All health-related warnings are highlighted in yellow on the label.

THC and CBD content

Cannabinoids are only activated when they are heated over 150 degrees Celsius. This is a process called decarboxylation. So, in its natural state, cannabis has a low level of active cannabinoids. When cannabis is decarboxylated, through either heating or processing, the cannabinoid levels increase.

On all legal packaging labels, the first numbers, listed as “THC” and/or “CBD”, represent the active cannabinoid levels in the cannabis as purchased before being used. Dried cannabis will have a low level of active cannabinoids because it hasn’t been heated yet. 

The second numbers that should be listed are “Total THC” and “Total CBD.” These figures represent the active cannabinoid levels in the cannabis when ready for consumption. Because oil and capsule products have been processed (and the cannabinoids heated already), the second and first numbers will be the same between these products.

Licensed producer information

In case you ever need to contact a certain producer, all cannabis products from licensed producers must have their company name and contact details, including an email address and phone number. Also, to make sure the cannabis can be traced back for quality control purposes, a specific harvest or “lot” number will be on the label.

As with any packaging, it’s important to inspect the cannabis you purchase to make sure it hasn’t been tampered with, and the warning label should be looked over to confirm that what is inside is exactly what you ordered. Understanding all cannabis labels is vital to making informed decisions on the types of cannabis you wish to enjoy.

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