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Cannabis Labeling

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Is it just a matter of time before TTB is scutinizing cannabis labels — for sneaky references to — wine?

I hope so. That would be great.

This article about cannabis beer got me to thinking about all manner of cannabinoid-related issues.

Did TTB approve the label yet? Not that I can see. I don’t find any Indica label approved for this Colorado brewery so far. But I do find this Dank label, which is pretty close. The label mentions a run-in with “the man” and pounds of resinous west coast Cannabacae. Dad and Dudes (the brewer) did a wonderful job of securing some trademark rights in this important term (DANK) sure to be much and more in demand in the future. But the label oddly implies that the company has a trademark registration on the term DANK in and of itself, when it does not appear that anyone does. I wonder if D&D’s registration will be sufficient, someday, to block pot purveyors from using the term DANK as part of their branding, and if pot will be considered highly-related to beer/wine/spirits.

Thanks to LabelVision, it’s quite easy to see that TTB has allowed only two “cannabis” labels so far:  vodka with cannabis sativa, and Cabernet Franc with notes of cannabis (“pairs well with baked food or an after dinner smoke”).

There are quite a few Indica labels (not including the one in the drinks business article). There are plenty of pot labels wafting around already, and it seems clear there are many more on the way, in one form or another.

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Beer, Pot and the Government

potJoe Sixpack this week has a good and thorough look at the many beer labels that talk about and tip a hat to their colleague, marijuana. The numbers and audacity are surely growing, as the old and antiquated laws fall by the wayside a bit. I like the quaint and funny reference to coats of arms:

With this month’s ballyhooed legalization of marijuana in Colorado, some beer makers are adding playful drug references to their brand names and labels, and regulators can do little to censor them.

Label oversight, a quirky if contentious area of federal alcohol law, has confounded breweries for years with often capricious standards that bear little on consumer protection.

Federal law, for example, oddly prohibits the use of coats of arms or wording that promises ‘pre-war strength,’ whatever that means.

Mr. Russell (aka Joe) also helped educate me that a safety meeting is not necessarily boring and dire:

Yes, there are limits. Dark Horse Brewing, in Michigan, lost its bid for Smells Like Weed IPA, though its hops, in fact, smell like pot. The name was later changed to Smells Like A Safety Meeting IPA. (A ‘safety meeting’ is slang for taking a break on the job to light up a doober.)

But expect to see fewer of those objections as more states move toward legalization.

Joe Sixpack has at least 16 label examples here and here.

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Beer + Hemp

Until about 10 years ago, there were quite a few beers made with hemp available in the US. Then TTB/ATF put out a policy and also said:

On April 6, 2000, ATF issued a policy on the use of hemp or hemp components in alcohol beverages and on the use of the term “hemp” or depictions of the hemp plant on labels for alcohol beverages. The policy does not ban the use of hemp in alcohol beverages, but was created to assure that beverage alcohol products do not contain a controlled substance (tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)). ATF also determined that the appearance of the word “hemp” or depictions of hemp plants on labels was likely to create a misleading impression as to the true identity or quality of the product. As of this writing, there are no approved certificates of label approval for products containing hemp.

Slowly but surely, however, in recent months various beers with hemp are starting to re-emerge and three of them are highlighted in this post. For the uninitiated, hemp happens to be a member of the cannabaceae family, a cousin of hops and close kin of marijuana (or cannabis). Above is O’Fallon’s Hemp Hop Rye, an amber ale brewed with hemp seeds and approved earlier this year. The label mentions the hemp, and has a little picture of the hops and rye — but the hemp or hemp seed imagery seemed to be missing (until we added it to the image above). According to a St. Louis Riverfront Times review the product “contains three kinds of malted barley, two types of rye, three varieties of hops and toasted hemp seed.”

TTB applied several hemp-specific qualifications to this and the other hemp approvals. TTB said:

  1. This label may not be used on a product that contains a controlled substance.
  2. Hemp component(s) must be tested in the U.S. for the presence of controlled substance(s) each time component is imported and results must be maintained on your premises for inspection.
  3. A detailed description of the method of analysis used by the U.S. lab to test for controlled substance must be maintained on your premise for inspection.

A second example is Humboldt Brown Ale Brewed with Hemp. It is brewed by Firestone Walker of Paso Robles, California. This approval also happens to add “This malt beverage may not have been produced with adjuncts (additives) except those that do not remain in the finished product.”

Our third example is Rogue Epoch Days Ale Brewed with Hemp Seeds. It is brewed in Newport, Oregon and happens to include a highly detailed ingredient list of a sort that is fairly rare on alcohol beverage labels.

components in alcohol beverages and on the use of the term “hemp” or depictions of the hemp plant on labels for alcohol beverages. The policy does not ban the use of hemp in alcohol beverages, but was created to assure that beverage alcohol products do not contain a controlled substance (tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)). ATF also determined that the appearance of the word “hemp” or depictions of hemp plants on labels was likely to create a misleading impression as to the true identity or quality of the product. As of this writing, there are no approved certificates of label approval for products containing hemp.

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