CBD Labeling and Coding

Serving as Robust Checkpoint for Other Products and Industries

By Gary Paulin and Mark Lusky

Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York refrain “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere” applies aptly to label and coding challenges in the CBD/cannabis industry. Complying with ever-changing label regulations spanning multiple jurisdictions and product types can seem like a full-time job at times.

Following the types of protocols in cannabis and CBD can serve as the basis of a well-rounded best practices checklist for just about any product. What are some of those best practices?

  1. Be accurate and clear. Don’t make unsupportable claims. Do make ingredients and amounts easily understandable, as consumers increasingly want to know exactly what they’re getting. The emerging CBD industry shows how confusing and confounding it can be to consumers.

A June 2019 article on weedmaps.com notes: “Looking through an assortment of cannabidiol (CBD) products, you might notice certain parts of the label that jump out at you, such as a lively green hemp leaf or the word ‘organic,’ enticing you to give this intriguing product a try. A closer look at that label, however, might raise potential red flags about the quality or accuracy of that CBD product…it’s important for consumers to understand how product labeling is regulated when it comes to CBD oil and CBD-infused products.”

The article continues, “While the FDA slowly and cautiously approaches making new regulations for CBD products, the gap between regulated products and anything goes grows wider, leaving consumers at risk of buying poor-quality products.”

Consumers demand transparency and quality that matches up with their expectations. Perceiving lack of either, they likely will spread the word far and wide via social media and media reports—which can turn a darling product into a dud in no time flat.

  1. What’s new today at the local, state and federal levels? Again, CBD demonstrates the importance of understanding evolving regulations everywhere. com reports: “Twelve states (and a thirteenth likely on the way in California) currently have laws explicitly permitting hemp-derived ingredients to be added to food. However, some states and municipalities – most recently and notably New York City – prohibit the sale of CBD edibles at the retail level, requiring restaurant operators and food producers to cease sales of what had been a flourishing market.”

The report continues: “In some states, restaurant operators are taking advantage of the legal void, operating on the presumption that it’s ok until someone says it’s not ok. And in most states, lawmakers aren’t doing very much to clear up the legal situation – at least not comprehensively.”

This is a wake-up call to any product manufacturer to stay aware of potential developments and changes in the regulatory environment. While such products as salsa and soap may not be nearly as complex and confusing, staying in the loop can be a great “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” solution.

  1. What are you, really? There is much discussion, for example, about CBD supplements versus food. An article on com sheds light: “To determine if your product needs a food or supplement label, you need to consider the directions for use as well as the intended use of the product. If your product is a capsule, soft gel or oral spray, it needs a supplement label. For oil drops, if the suggested serving size is a number of drops, the product is also a supplement. Even some food and beverage formats should be labeled as supplements—especially those where the suggested serving size is below the FDA’s RACC (recommended amount customarily consumed). Bottom line: it’s all about the intended use, which can be established by container size, number of servings in the container, serving size, marketing claims made about the items and the dosage of specialty ingredients.”
  2. Be accountable (and addressable). Bullet-proof tracking along the entire supply chain is a good idea for a variety of reasons. Among them are guarding against counterfeiting, ensuring quality control and accuracy on ingredients, and ability—where desired—to tie individual product containers to specific buyers for tracing or personalized promotion and communication.

Hemp Industry Daily reports on a movement in some states toward inserting a special code to guarantee the origin of CBD and its potency. After dozens of Utah residents got sick from synthetic CBD products, the state moved to make sure each container carries a label code proving product legality. Scanning a unique QR code or digital label ID track-and-trace identifier allows consumers to verify authenticity and/or communicate with the manufacturer about everything from satisfaction to offers.

About the Author:

Gary Paulin is director of sales and customer service at Lightning Labels, a Denver-based custom label printer that uses state-of-the-art printing technology to provide affordable, full-color custom labels and custom stickers of all shapes and sizes. Mark Lusky is president of Lusky Enterprises Inc., a marketing communications and content development company. Contact: sales@lightninglabels.com; 800.544.6323 or 303.481.2304.