Why a Universal Symbol for Cannabis?

As individual U.S. states and the federal government approach full legalization of cannabis for adults, a universal symbol for cannabis products is essential to ensure the protection of public health and safety. In the absence of federal standardization, states have have adopted widely differing requirements for cannabis labeling.

Examples of other cannabis symbols currently in use in various states
States have widely different requirements for cannabis labeling on packages, making it difficult for consumers to correctly identify and exercise caution with cannabis products.

A universal symbol on cannabis packages can ensure that Americans of all ages and backgrounds can correctly identify and exercise caution with cannabis products, which is critical for preventing the accidental ingestion of cannabis by adults and children. However, no cannabis product symbol has met with approval by more than one or two legalized U.S. states.

The International Intoxicating Cannabis Product Symbol (IICPS)

Working with Doctors for Cannabis Regulation and other stakeholders, David L. Nathan, MD, proposed the Universal Cannabis Product Symbol (UCPS) in 2019. After its publication in 2020, a broad discussion with various stakeholders led to a series of changes to the UCPS. Working with the standards organization ASTM, David Nathan and collaborator Eli Nathan co-designed a modified version of the UCPS, which was renamed the International Intoxicating Cannabis Product Symbol (IICPS).

Universal Cannabis Symbol
International Intoxicating Cannabis Product Symbol (IICPS)

The IICPS has been approved for the state of Montana and went into effect on January 1, 2022. Other newly legalized states are planning to follow suit. ASTM International is actively engaged in an approval process which would make the IICPS the one and only cannabis product symbol to be designated as an internationally recognized consensus standard.

Features of the IICPS:

  • Incorporates a cannabis leaf – the graphic element most associated with cannabis – into the internationally-compliant standard triangular caution sign (ISO 3864) using “Warning Signal Yellow” (ISO 3864-4/ANSI Z535.1, Pantone 109, Hex #ffd100) and a black border, creating an instantly familiar symbol for all cannabis product packages.
  • Large leaf with well-separated leaflets remains clear at greatly reduced dimensions.
  • Absence of text (e.g., “THC”) inside the triangle complies with existing international caution sign standards and avoids linguistic & jurisdictional ambiguity and prevents the need for future changes in the symbol as cannabis science and policy evolves.
  • For all but the smallest containers, recommended minimum width of the black triangle is 1/2 inch (12.7 mm).
  • Multiple file formats (e.g., PDF, EPS, SVG, and JPG) available in perpetuity for public use worldwide, royalty-free, and at no cost.
  • Unanimously approved by the Board of Directors of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation & the ASTM working group under Committee D37 developing a universal cannabis symbol (full membership vote pending).
  • Optional text under the UCPS enables authorities having jurisdiction to identify contents, regulatory jurisdiction, cautions, et al.
  • A yellow outline is used whenever the UCPS is used against a dark background.