Cannabis and the Language of Regulation: Prop 65

So here we are, 2 weeks into the new year and its already full on in our faces. But like FULL ON. This week we are just going to jump right into our topic and hope that you are all healthy, safe and staying sane in the midst of all of the madness.


This week’s blog is going to be the first of a series about the laws, rules and regulations that have governed cannabis throughout modern history. In the series we will have a look at the origins and reasoning behind the original global legislation and regulation governing cannabis in all its forms. And then we will move on to the present day and the current legislative and regulatory frame-works that are being used to regulate the cannabis industry as a whole both locally (North America) and globally.


So today we are going to start with prop 65 which is regulatory California and is currently being used to regulate cannabis in all its forms and variations.




Prop 65

Proposition 65 or The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, requires California to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. The list must be updated annually. The list is long and some of the entries on the list are real head-scratchers. Products that have any of these chemicals in their ingredients are required to have labels warning the consumers of the potential hazards. There are 4 ways a chemical can be added to the list:


  1. Labor code: this is a long and complicated process by which chemicals are assessed by the WHO to cause cancer in humans or laboratory animals
  2. State’s Qualified Experts (SQE): determined by one of two committees (CIC and DARTIC) designated by the state as the States Qualified Experts for evaluation of chemicals under prop 65.
  3. Authoratative Bodies: designated by the States Qualified Experts as being authoritative bodies, these include EPA, FDA, NIOSH, NTP and the IRAC.
  4. Formally Required to be Labeled: an agency of the state or federal government requires that a chemical be labeled or identified as causing cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.



And now that you are thoroughly bored you are probably wondering what in the heck does any of this have to do with CBD? Thanks for your question and we are glad you asked.



Why CBD?

What does CBD have to do with toxic chemicals that cause cancer and birth defects? Here is how it works. Cannabis smoke has been added to the list of chemicals that cause cancer and potential birth defects. Mainly because its smoke and smoke causes cancer. However there is also some belief in the medical community that THC may be the root cause of oral cancer associated with cannabis smoke. As a result, THC has been added to the list of chemicals regulated by Prop 65 and product warning labels are required for products containing any trace of THC, no matter how small the amount. CBD products have THC in them (0.2% or lower) and therefore as of January 3, 2021 all CBD products must have warnings on their labels as per the dictates of Prop 65.




What Gives?

Ok, so for real, what gives? Because this is not really making a lot of sense so far.

In this case the issue is that the regulatory authorities are taking what they view to be a “proactive”, risk-averse approach to risk management and minimization. We now know that the logic goes like this: Cannabis smoke has been shown to cause cancer, THC is suspected as being a potential root cause of cancer particularly in regard to oral cancer; as a result, anything that has THC must carry a warning that it may potentially cause cancer.

The real problem, however, is that there is no “safe harbor”, or universally accepted level of, THC that has been clearly identified as being non-toxic. As a result, any product that has any trace amount of THC, no matter how small, will be required to have a Prop 65 warning on its label.

This is a less than perfect and reactionary/blanket approach to THC regulation, but it is not uncommon, particularly in areas that deal directly with public health and safety. It is considered better to err on the side of caution.



What now?

Next week we will be taking a closer look at Prop 65 to understand why THC is there and how it will be enforced, but for right now we are racing to ensure regulatory compliance with the new label requirements. So if our labels look a little more “busy” than usual don’t worry, its still the same amazing product just with an extra dash of compliance. See you next week and stay healthy.