What You Need to Know About Child Resistant Packaging

The cannabis industry may be known for its legalization woes across the United States, but it is now making even more waves for something more interesting: its new packaging styles. 

While known more previously for simple brown bottles and even simpler bottle lids, cannabis products are starting to sport a whole new kind of packaging that’s harder to open, especially for younger children. In industry jargon, it is known as child-resistant packaging. 

Child-resistant packaging

Child-resistant packaging is the kind of packaging that’s designed to be safe for children to use or be around. This safety is enabled by making the packaging harder to open, especially for children younger than age five, such that they do not access the product and ingest it. 

A History of Child Resistant Packaging

Child-resistant packaging wasn’t a major thing before the 1970s. Until then, product packaging performed only the main tasks of keeping products safe from external damage until consumption and advertising/branding. Only a few known dangerous products such as chemicals and poison were fitted with unique packaging for safety reasons. 

Packaging materials themselves were only starting to improve as manufacturers turned their attention to seeking better, stronger and longer-lasting alternatives for their products. 

But as the Swinging Sixties wore on, the number of children that ingested hazardous materials (especially household items and cleaning products) steadily increased. Not even the usual ‘Keep Away From Children’ message on package labels seemed to be working. 

In the late 60s, the US Consumer Products Safety Commission officially labeled ‘poisoning by household products’ as the leading cause of injuries in children under five years of age. In response, the United States government created the Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970, aimed at making packaging safer for children to use and be around. 

The Act declared that all new packaging henceforth was to be child-resistant, and that would mean being ‘significantly difficult’ for children below five years of age to open by themselves. At the same time, the Act required that the new packaging still be easy for adults to use properly, as before. 

Not content with stating empty rules only, the government also set up federal testing facilities for the new packaging materials where they could be approved for use. 

The Child Resistant Packaging Test

Within the testing facilities, each packaging material or design was subjected to a similar test. It employed both children under the age of 5 and adults between ages 50 and 70. For the children, 30% had to be between 42 and 44 months, 40% had to be between 45 and 48 months, while 30% had to be between 49 and 51 months. The total number of children used was always 50. 

For the adults, 100 people were used and no major distinctions were placed on age brackets. For the test itself, the children were first given the product packaging in question and asked to open it. Time accorded was between 5 and 10 minutes, and if the children failed to open the packaging within 5 minutes, they would be allowed to use their teeth. 

If the children had even more difficulty opening the product or totally failed by the end, the packaging material or design would have passed the test. The test would then be given to the 100 adults along with written instructions on what can be done. 

The ‘push and twist’ style commonly used on bottle lids today was one of the designs that passed this test. As it turns out, the 1970 Poison Prevention Packaging Act proved to be successful. 

More and more products are harder for children to open today, and only 1.4 deaths out of a million are recorded annually from oral medicine related accidents in the United States. In fact, the new child-resistant packaging materials and designs that came up after 1970 were so effective that they have largely remained unchanged until today.

Colorado’s Child Resistant Packaging Law

With its new child-resistant packaging designs, the cannabis/marijuana industry is bringing unexpected innovation to this now staid aspect of the packaging industry. Ever since most American states decided to legalize marijuana and its products, they have been putting rules in place to avert misuse of the drug and unnecessary exposure to minors. 

The state of Colorado led the race in 2013 with its requirement that all marijuana-related products could only be taken out of dispensaries in childproof exit packaging. Even though sellers and buyers quickly jumped on board, the new rule was quickly found to be inefficient. 

As it turned out, the childproof exit packaging was almost always discarded once the goods arrived in the home, thereby making them accessible to minors. When nearly 14,000 households in Colorado were found to be storing their marijuana out of its childproof packaging by a 2016 report, the State’s Department of Marijuana Enforcement drew new rules that required all marijuana packaging related products to be fully child-resistant. 

Thus began a search for new compliant designs by manufacturers that has resulted in a series of unique packaging setups in the cannabis industry today. 

The Different Types of Child Resistant Packaging

As of 2019, child-resistant packaging has been incorporated in almost all forms of packaging, be it jars, boxes, bottles or child-resistant bags. Manufacturers have also found ways around almost all kinds of packaging materials, whether it’s glass, mylar or plastic. 

The biggest focus is, as always, placed mostly on the package’s entry point, which is engineered to be harder to open for younger children. Some of the latest inventions now include slide boxes, tamper-resistant dropper bottles, blunt tubes, tighter lids and more.

The cannabis/marijuana industry has particularly come up with a series of rather unique child-resistant packaging materials. 

A few examples include the CRATIV case, which is a plastic case designed for cannabis edibles that can only be opened by pressing its front and sides. 

Another is a simple-looking, dark glass jar for marijuana that keeps out the sunlight while barring access with a formidable child-resistant cap

For now, most companies and manufacturers are still using their existing forms of child-resistant packaging as approved decades ago. But as with any industry, innovation is a big disrupting force. These new child-resistant packaging designs from the cannabis industry are wonderfully efficient at their task, so it would be no wonder if they triggered a shake-up in the packaging industry as a whole.

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