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Cannabis: A Changing Identity

Just a few years ago, Cannabis was seen as a societal taboo. As an illegal substance, it had less than desirable reputation, much like alcohol had when prohibition ended. And even though its legalization is now spreading through the U.S., it still evokes a negative response in some people. That said, the cannabis industry is rising rapidly and enjoying a financial boom. The success that the industry has had in such a short amount of time is giving way to a new, more positive societal view of the infamous green leaf.

A Changing Identity

The industry has had such success so far because cannabis entrepreneurs got one thing right early on. To establish their new businesses as legit and reputable, they needed to started by changing the identity of the product and begin to replace it with a respectable image. Much of society had been identifying cannabis as the “gateway drug” or as grungy college dorm rooms full of stoners smoking “weed”. The entrepreneurs of the industry wanted to get as far away from that reputation as possible, and instead of just attempting to differentiate the products, they elevated it completely.

Today, if you visit a cannabis dispensary in one of the several states where the plant has been legalized for recreational use – Alaska, California, Colorado, Oregon, Nevada, Vermont, D.C., Washington State, Maine, and Massachusetts – you will find luxury has replaced grunge. The new identity of cannabis is centered around a fresh and clean, sleek aesthetic to cater high-quality products to appeal to a higher-end clientele.

And it’s no surprise that a more respectable image helps these business blend in with their surrounding areas in order to reduce the societal taboo and build a following of loyal consumers.

Packaging Design

Staying consistent with in-store aesthetic, the product packaging is being designed with reputation in mind. Design is a large factor in changing the identity of cannabis because design can communicate value to people and convince them that new and emerging products in the industry are high-quality, premium products. With that being said, design is the key to changing societal attitudes about marijuana and related products.

Cannabis Packaging 101

So, now you know how important the design of the packaging is. But what else do you need to know?


Cannabis is a wildly diverse product. It can be used medically or recreationally and can take many forms. And with its different forms come different packaging needs. Cannabis products have been packaged in everything from jars to bags to vials to boxes, so the container will depend on the type of product.

Consumer Profile

When deciding on products to offer packaging design, keep in mind the different segments of consumers buying cannabis products. There are consumers who have been using cannabis or related products for years and are comfortable with it. There are first time users. There are patients using the products strictly for medical purposes. There are consumers who want to be very discreet about their use. Build consumer profiles around how cannabis fits into the lifestyle of the consumer.


The cannabis industry is always in a very delicate state as it relies on government laws and regulations. Because of this, cannabis laws are very inconsistent and always changing, so laws to follow depend on the state the business is operating in and will differ on a case-by-case basis. This is especially true for edibles, as some states have special rules for food products containing THC.

However, several rules that seem to be largely consistent state that cannabis products:

  • Cannot imitate packaging used for non-cannabis food products or products typically marketed to children.
  • Only edibles must be packaged in “lifetime” child-resistant packaging (child-resistant after opening and reclosing), while other forms of products must be initially child-resistant, upon first opening.
  • The four main criteria for a package to meet are tamper evidence, child-resistance, resealability (for products with multiple uses) and opaque packaging for edibles.


As for what the product label should include, here is a rough breakdown.

  • Primary label: what the product is
  • Secondary label: producer, processor, and retailer information, individual harvest batch data
  • Clearly stated “NOT FOR KIDS” label

Keep in mind that different types of products and potencies often have different packaging rules and regulations, which makes consistency nearly impossible.

Packaging Materials

In order to comply with rules and regulations, businesses in the industry are already using flexible pouch bags for their products. These bags often have multiple layers and are resistant to tearing, moisture, and scent release. Packaging must also be child-proof, especially if it is resealable or the products inside are edibles such as cookies, candies, etc.


Just like any other plant or animal product, cannabis is a perishable good. The product packaging must be expertly sealed to maintain freshness to keep the product from losing any of its properties.

Target Area

Cannabis cannot legally cross state lines and this can create issues for brands looking to expand their reach. Be aware of what areas you can distribute to and who your main target customer will be in those areas.

Shelf Appeal

The growth of the cannabis industry is being compared to the Gold Rush of the 1800s. This means that competition is everywhere, and it is fierce. In order to beat out the crush of competition and get ahead in the expanding market, shelf-appeal is crucial. The more appealing a product looks on the shelf, the more likely the consumer is to buy it, giving the brand a chance to create a loyal customer base.

The Future of Cannabis

With the industry rapidly growing, it’s clear that there is a prosperous future in cannabis. Just like any industry, this one is seeing its share of rising and falling trends.

One company called Soulshine has combined cannabis products with sustainability, a trend that has been on the rise around the world. They have championed sustainable business practices in the industry with their innovative product packaging made from recyclable and biodegradable materials.

Other companies believe that the future of the cannabis industry lies in digital printing. Digital printing would make it so much easier and more cost effective for businesses to keep up with rapidly changing government laws. It would mean an easier way for companies to quickly change packaging and labels to reflect the latest laws without having to rely on traditional printing for time-consuming and costly label corrections.

No matter what attitude you have about cannabis, its undeniable that it is going to make a huge impact on society as more time passes and government laws find consistent structure. It is very probable that more states will begin to legalize the iconic green leaf in the near future. Even in a state like Florida, which has not legalized cannabis, there is already a small group of medical marijuana facilities and a company with a license to produce edibles. Things are rapidly changing, and the industry is showing no signs of slowing down.