Amid increasing concerns about exposure to unregulated toxic chemicals in drinking water and consumer products, California voters approved the ballot initiative Proposition 65 in 1986. Enacted as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, Prop 65 amended the California Health and Safety Code, requiring the state to create a list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, and other reproductive issues. Overseen by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), the list is updated annually and has grown to include more than 800 chemical compounds.

How Does Prop 65 Affect Product Labeling?

One of the most public facing effects of Prop 65 is the law’s warning labels. Regulations implemented after the law’s passage require any business with 10 or more employees operating or selling products in California to provide a clear and reasonable warning before exposing consumers to any of the harmful compounds identified by the state.

Labeling requirements are generally enforced by the California Attorney General’s Office as well as district and city attorneys. Enforcement typically results in a now standard warning label:

WARNING: This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.

New Labeling Requirements for Cannabis

Prop 65 encourages manufacturers to reformulate their products and remove toxic ingredients. While the effects of Prop 65 are generally regarded as a win for consumer rights, some critics have complained that the law has led to over-warning and consumer desensitization.

Now those in the cannabis industry are expressing similar concerns. While cannabis smoke has been listed as a carcinogen in California since 2009, in January 2020, the state added both cannabis smoke and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to its list of known reproductive toxins.

Moreover, THC’s listing does not include a safe harbor limit. This means that all products with detectable levels of THC, including federally legal, hemp-based products containing less than 0.3% THC, will require a Prop 65 warning label.

Staying Compliant

The new labeling requirements went into effect on January 3, 2021. Producers lagging behind on implementation may find themselves targeted with legal action. For more detailed information, the American Herbal Products Association has published documents with guidance on how cannabis and hemp producers can meet the new Prop 65 requirements.

Whether you’re a hemp or high-THC cannabis producer, you need to know what’s in your products. Stay compliant with accurate, quality cannabis testing. Encore Labs offers comprehensive cannabis testing services including cannabinoid profiling, heavy metal detection, pesticide testing, and customer focused, scientific consultation to help your business thrive.