Q&A: Decoding Cannabis Labels
Mon., Dec. 30, 2019
Q. I recently bought some flower with the advice and guidance of a kind budtender. When I got home, I forgot what some of the symbols and numbers mean on the label. Can you help me know what to look for in what I smoke? Signed TMI A. Cannabis labels include a wealth of information, but can often be difficult to read and understand (and, if you are “of a certain age,” the small print can prove an extra challenge). These labels have a big mission: Pack a great deal of information onto a small package in state-specific markets that is continually changing. As shops strive to be transparent and compliant, labels are rich with information. However, the result is often a small, cramped label containing abbreviations and symbols to save space. While this may serve the savviest of cannabis consumers, it can be less than user-friendly. Let’s look first as some key label information: According to the State of Washington, a cannabis flower package “must protect the product from contamination” and “must not impart any toxic … substance” to the product. The label must list “the business name and the business’ 9-digit Washington state unified business identifier.” This 9-digit number allows the state to trace the package from dispensary to consumer. The net weight is also mandated with grams and ounces being standard measurements. . In addition, percentages of THC, THCA (what THC becomes when heated) and CBD must be included. On this sample label, the shop name and tracking number is on the first line, the weight on the second line and the total THC, activated THC (THCA) and CBD percentages are on the third and fourth line. Producers must also disclose via website or QR code which pesticides, if any, were used during cultivation or processing. State-approved warnings are required on each package including, “May be habit forming” and “Smoking is hazardous to your health” (in the case of flower). They can include optional information like harvest, best-if-used-by, and manufacturing dates, along with other cannabinoids or terpenes (for example, the above label shows the presence of terpinolene, caryophyllene, and humulene). Some list third-party verified testing labs, which can be provided upon the consumers’ request. While this information is optional, it is also regulated by the state. The state also dictates what’s prohibited on labels, including “false or misleading information,” promotion of overconsumption, or claims of therapeutic effects. Labels cannot depict an underage person or include objects such as toys or cartoon characters that would appeal to children. Hopefully reading labels is now a bit clearer. This information is crucial as you mindfully chart your consumption. I recommend keeping a cannabis journal, especially if you are new to cannabis as part of a health regimen. With practice, reading labels becomes easier. Now you have a baseline of information for future reference.
Rob Mejia is president of Our Community Harvest: A Cannabis Education Company Rob lives in New Jersey and spends his free time cooking, playing tennis, and repairing an old house.
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