Marijuana Packaging Sparks Outrage


Customers disappointed in overuse of plastic

In the nearly one month since prohibition ended across Canada, long-term users and curious first-timers alike have been taking advantage of the opportunity to head into their local cannabis distributor and snap up the leafy green buds by the handful. Stores across Canada have reported shortages, with some provincial distributors having to shut down three days a week to manage supply and demand – a situation which plagued Québec recently. While it is not hard to see why Canadians by the crowd are keen to try the newly legal substance, many Canadians are balking at something completely unexpected – the packaging.

Caleb MacIsaac

Caleb MacIsaac

Unlike the packaging debacles surrounding cigarettes of the 90s and early 2000s, the packaging issues related to marijuana isn’t one laden with bleeding hearts, cataracts, or wheelchair bound smokers. Instead, the problem lies in sheer amount of packaging. In purchasing a single gram of marijuana from the NSLC, a customer can expect the packaging to weigh many multiples of the product itself - clocking in at 22.7 grams of plastic. For the 3.5-gram choice, the package weighs a hefty 34.0 grams; a slightly more appropriate weight to weight ratio, if only slightly. The containers for the marijuana do not label volume, but it visually clear they are significantly larger than they need to be. The size of the packaging may not have been such an oddity, had it not been for the fact that marijuana users have, for decades, used more quantity-appropriate packaging.

Each brand version of marijuana comes in as small a quantity as one gram. If a customer purchases five grams across five different brands, each one comes in its own 22.7-gram plastic container. For five different brands of one-gram amounts of marijuana, a buyer can expect to bring home 114 grams of plastic. At a time when people are becoming more aware of the amount of plastic that ends up as pollution in the environment, the oceans, and even our bodies, this seems like a deep miscalculation attributable to federal packaging mandates, and producers of marijuana. Due to the secure nature of marijuana sales, the relatively large plastic containers cannot be used like a jam jar at a bulk food store or a reusable coffee cup – they must be thrown out or recycled. 

Given that the legal sale of marijuana is still in infancy stages, it may very well be that the packaging will improve over time. Understandably, some critics may contend that the large size and safety lids are a necessary measure to prevent children from accessing marijuana. Indeed, the federal government has mandated all packing be “child-proof.” In comparison, pill-containers, which come in much smaller sizes, are just as effective (if not more so) at keeping pills out of the hands of children, and there is no discernible reason the same container could not be reused for marijuana. 

Hopefully, the amount of plastic in containers will decrease to a reasonable point. Another viable option may be for distributors to incorporate some kind of container that can be reused or repurposed. In the end, the reasoning behind producers’ rejection of pill container-like vessels will probably never be known. Until such a time that the packaging is reconsidered, customers will have to endure their 22.7 grams of plastic with every single-serve gram of marijuana.