It's High Time to Start Thinking About Packaging for the Pot Industry
As more states legalize and decriminalize marijuana, brands are seeking ways to package their once prohibited product, creating what could be a lucrative market for boutique package printers.
Just in case you're not up to par on your pot politics, here is a quick overview:
- Marijuana is legal for recreational use in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia and many expect California, Arizona, Maine and Massachusetts to join that list this year. (Here is another source.)
- Twenty-four states have legalized medical marijuana, including Pennsylvania, which as of April 13, 2016, became the latest to jump on the bandwagon.
- Twenty states have decriminalized marijuana in one form or another.
This past week, Bloomberg reported that because legalization and commerce is slowly spreading across the U.S., those in the industry are trying to legitimize their products with eye-catching and high quality packaging. Making the packaging look more like the products consumers are used to seeing on grocery shelves increases the chances that it will be socially accepted and trusted by consumers.
Take Winterlife Cannabis, which according to Bloomberg, went from a delivery service in Washington state that leaped at the opportunity to make home deliveries of its products in the early stages of recreational use legalization in the state, before regulators had written all the rules. Now, the company sells its products in more than 50 stores across the state, using packaging as a way to stand out from the other products on the shelf.
So, is this an industry that package printers should be watching closely? Charity Cox, co-founder and creative director at Winterlife, seems to think it could be.
"Given that this is the very beginning of what is projected to be a huge industry that could very well be national in the foreseeable future, I think it is a smart and welcome move for printers to come on board," Cox explained in an email to packagePRINTING.
Cox explains that the company works with PrintWest, an environmentally conscious large-scale offset printer based in Woodinville, Wash., to produce its boxes, which are then diecut and folded, while the large packages are affixed with an easy lock bottom. For its labels, the company turns to Short Run Labels, a company based in Oregon. Short Run Labels uses a four-color process to print the labels and offers a variety of substrates and the choice of gloss or matte laminates. Cox also mentions that Winterlife is looking into shrink-sleeve labels for its joint tubes. The packages are designed in-house, which helps to ensure authenticity because the designers have an intimate relationship with the brand and understand what Winterlife wants to communicate to consumers.
Though Winterlife has had success in creating packaging partnerships, Cox explains that there are unique challenges for the burgeoning industry.
"Our current challenges as an industry where packaging is concerned, are rules set by the state mandating that all edibles and concentrates are separated into individual, child resistant servings and that there are some vendors who will not do work or sell to cannabis companies," she writes.
Another challenge is making sure that all of the packaging and labels, specifically in Washington, must contain certain warnings, the concentration of THC in the product, an ID inventory number, as well as other indicators as to its development. While this isn't a deal breaker when designing and printing packaging and labels, it is definitely something to be considered.
In an industry that doesn't look like its waning, packaging companies located in states that have taken steps toward legalization could be well-served by keeping an open mind to adding pot packaging to their repertoire.