On June 1, 2022, the Cannabis Control Board (CCB) approved the first set of regulations for New York State’s adult-use cannabis industry. The regulations establish minimum standards for the packaging, labeling, and marketing of recreational cannabis products. The regulations mark a significant step forward in establishing a retail market for adult-use cannabis and will apply to all vendors in the state. The regulations, which are aimed at promoting consumer safety, will now undergo a 60-day public-comment period before becoming effective.
Vendors will be required to package all adult-use cannabis products in child- and tamper-resistant packaging. Further, while licensees are permitted to use their brand logos and designs on product packaging, the regulations prohibit the use of more than one brand logo and name and any pictures or graphics beyond what the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) requires. The regulations also require vendors to use adult-only marketing strategies. Vendors are not allowed to advertise or market cannabis products using any of the following: cartoons or cartoon-like font; bright, neon colors; the term “candy” or any variation thereof; or any other words, images, symbols, etc. that may be attractive to people under the age of 21. Under the regulations, vendors will also be required to submit to OCM as part of the application process an environmental-sustainability program for cannabis-product packaging.
In addition to “nutrition information” relevant to cannabis products (i.e., THC content, list of ingredients, weight of cannabis, etc.), all product packaging must have the universal state symbol of approval containing a yellow THC flower in a triangle, with a 21+ symbol in a red circle atop the New York State logo. This label confirms that the product is licensed and legitimate after undergoing lab testing. Licensed vendors are prohibited from claiming any therapeutic or health benefits from smoking or ingesting the product and may not use words such as “organic” or “craft.” In fact, vendors will be required to include various warning labels on all packaging, including “KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN AND PETS.” Product labeling must also warn that consumers must be at least 21 years old and that women who are pregnant or nursing should not consume cannabis. Edible-cannabis products must also contain a nutritional label that complies with federal regulations.
Marketing and advertising
While marketing cannabis products, licensed cannabis sellers are prohibited from doing various activities, including but not limited to: (i) doing so in such a way that would be attractive to persons under the age of 21; (ii) doing so on billboards; (iii) promoting the THC level of the product; and (iv) using colloquial references or digital images related to marijuana or paraphernalia, including but not limited to “stoner,” “chronic,” “weed,” or “pot.” All advertising and marketing materials must be for the primary purpose of informing consumers of the vendor’s retail locations and include conspicuous warning statements. Additionally, vendors are allowed to sponsor a charitable, sports, or similar event so long as “reliable evidence” exists that at least 90 percent of the audience is reasonably expected to be at least 21 years old.
Dustin M. Dorsino is an associate and Jeffrey B. Scheer is a member (partner) at the Syracuse–based law firm Bond, Schoeneck & King PLLC. Contact Dorsino at email@example.com, and contact Scheer at firstname.lastname@example.org. This Viewpoint article is drawn and edited from Bond’s website.