Cali Cannabis Regulators Hope to Beat Counterfeit Carts with… Stickers

It has truly been stunning to watch the way that the state of California has hurriedly rolled out the Adult Use of Marijuana Act – more commonly referred to as “Prop 64” after the voter-approved ballot initiative that birthed the state’s “legal weed” market.

You’d be hard pressed to find another multibillion-dollar industry being regulated by a group of people who, by and large, never had anything to do with cannabis before three or four years ago, but that is exactly who you find fronting these overpowered regulatory agencies tasked with overseeing it all here in Cali.

These state employees from the pencil pushers up to the very top are dedicated and talented in their own right, to be sure, but the fact is that cannabis is a very unique plant and without a true appreciation for or understanding of where this market came from, the result has been a web of frustration for those legacy operators trying to transition from those old ways into the new.

California Business & Professions Code § 26014 pertains specifically to this concern, and reads (emphasis ours):

26014. (a) The bureau shall convene an advisory committee to advise the bureau and licensing authorities on the development of standards and regulations pursuant to this division, including best practices and guidelines that protect public health and safety while ensuring a regulated environment for commercial marijuana activity that does not impose such unreasonably impracticable barriers so as to perpetuate, rather than reduce and eliminate, the illicit market for marijuana.

That final bit matters and as the newly established legal market continues to get beaten back by the entrenched and unregulated black market, the suits in Sacramento need look no further than their own rickety scaffold of rules and regs to figure out why it keeps happening.

The most recent example hits close to home for us here at Optimal Genetics and could be added to a growing list of instances when we feel that the state itself was the one out of compliance according to § 26014.


Deadlines, deadlines… regulators love their deadlines.  Well, just yesterday another deadline came and went – this time concerning vaporizer cartridges and how they now must be labeled with the California state cannabis industry symbol. That triangle with the weed leaf logo you’re starting to see everywhere must be displayed not just on the often excessive vape cart packaging (its box or blister pack), but on the vape cart itself now as well.

Suddenly, as of yesterday, any vape carts that do not have this required symbol displayed on the hardware itself are out of compliance. Cart manufacturers had until June 30th to move those units up the chain to distributors who then push them into retail outlets. Retailers now have just over six months, until December 31st of this year, to move that non-compliant inventory to the public.

The reason this revelation seemed so sudden to an industry that has been self-trained to be regulation experts is that the language in the regs surrounding this decision was unclear up until around mid-March. Up to that point, many insiders felt that common sense would prevail and that the state would come out and clear the smoke on the matter, but instead they confirmed that they would indeed be requiring the safety symbol to be displayed on the cart hardware, even though the real product is the oil inside.

Fortunately, perhaps recognizing how long they let this confusion fester, the state is allowing manufacturers and distributors to apply sticker labels of the symbol to otherwise-compliant already-filled hardware to keep that inventory in the supply chain. But all of this is yet another cost for the Makers in this exhausted industry. It may seem trivial but it is another drain of time and resources for operators who are running drastically low on each.

In a recently posted FAQ on the state-run California Cannabis Portal, the question was posed:

Do vape cartridges need to be labeled with the universal symbol?

The state’s answer really leaves no room for misinterpretation now:

Yes, the cartridge itself is an inner container, and it must have the universal symbol on it. The symbol can be placed on the cartridge by imprinting it, using a sticker or otherwise permanently affixing it to the cartridge. Vape cartridges often utilize the same batteries/pens used for tobacco products, and it is important to ensure consumers are aware that the cartridge contains cannabis. This labeling also identifies the cannabis product as a legally manufactured item.

The same section in the regs states that the symbol must be at least 0.5” x 0.5” and printed in black. This blob of black ink will be like the new Scarlet Letter, letting law enforcement and other haters more easily spot potheads from afar.

But if they think that this will in any way curb the incredible flow of fake vape carts onto the unregulated market then the regulators are really on some hot dog terps because anyone can download the symbol from the state, even counterfeiters. They are knocking off holographic logos and multilayer packaging, as if they won’t be able to slap that lame triangle wherever they need to.

What’s next?
That rolling paper is basically “inner packaging”, right?
I mean, technically, the cannabinoids are inside the trichome though… how far should we go?

Again, this non-solution costs the state absolutely nothing. It is a doomed experiment crowd-funded by the folks (manufacturers and consumers) it is allegedly intended to help which, so far at least, has been a pretty apt description of legal weed as a whole.

Post by Jack Riordan

Comments are closed.