Skip to content Skip to footer
Cannabis packaging

Ashley Keenan: Cannabis Packaging is Making Life Hell for Cannabis Patients

Twist it, squeeze it, pull it, pinch it? Trying to open legal cannabis packaging in Canada often feels like a game of Bop-It gone wrong. While watching people saw into plastic with kitchen knives may seem hilarious, it is actually a serious accessibility issue for medical cannabis patients.

Cannabis Packaging: Child-proofing Problematic for Patients

Health Canada requires that cannabis packaging be child-proof, regardless if it is destined for the adult-use or medical market. As a medical cannabis user, I can tell you these products often feel more patient-proof than child-proof. It was difficult when I had two working hands, but since my recent surgery it has become physically impossible. 

Max Monahan-Ellison recently brought light to the fact that accessibility and the needs of medicinal cannabis patients come second to public health and preventing youth access. Ellison shared his experiences at Medical Cannabis Canada, where he hears many stories of how patients creatively break into their medical products.

“Opening medical cannabis packaging is complicated and difficult for many patients, and this is intentional,” he wrote in The GrowthOp

“The Cannabis Act was developed with the purpose of preventing youth access, protecting public health, curbing the illicit market and ensuring the medical stream is not misused. As a result, equity and accessibility often take a backseat.”

Cannabis packaging
Imagine trying to open any childproof cannabis packaging with just one hand. That’s the case for writer Ashley Keenan, who is not the first patient to struggle with such packaging.

Buying Medicine For The Packaging

It is a struggle I know well: I strategically buy cannabis packaged in pouches instead of jars. I do the same with pre-rolls, making my decisions based on whether or not they come in those impossible cylinders I’ve dubbed ‘doob tubes from hell’. 

As a patient, I should be prioritizing my medical needs, not choosing my medicine based on whether or not I can open it. 

Recently, the situation went from inconvenient to potentially deadly for me.

I was home alone and having a low glucose event. I was out of emergency juice (insulin) when I saw Tweed’s Bakerstreet beverage in my fridge, containing a total of 29 grams of sugar per serving. I knew that I could just chug it and my diabetes would be appeased in mere minutesbut first I’d have to go through the struggle of trying to open it. 

Now, obviously this wasn’t a typical situation, but the point stands: no patient should have to use a knife to access their medications, or acquire medicine based on how accessible the packaging is.

Potential Solutions

Patients run into this issue with non-cannabis medications as well, as pharmaceutical medications also come in child-proof packaging. Personally, I use blister packs because I can no longer open pill bottles. 

As it stands, patients can’t ask for the same accommodations for medical cannabis. So how do we achieve this same level of accessibility in cannabis medications? The solution could start with an overhaul of the relationship between medical cannabis and pharmacies, but until then, it’s important that the cannabis industry at large start to think of how the patient experience, especially as it relates to packaging, can be improved.