The more useful information you list, the more you empower the consumer and earn their trust.
5 min read
Opinions expressed by Green Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
One of the most challenging and thrilling facts about branding cannabis is that there is no clearly established standard. It was just a couple years ago now that packaging even became a relevant thought to a manufacturer. Before then, cannabis wasn’t a product displayed on shelves at cannabis dispensaries and retail stores, it was passed off between hands in a bag without a label.
What we’ve discovered through the years is that packaging for this industry is a sensitive balance between aesthetic appeal, consumer education, safety, and progressive transparency.
My career in branding cannabis has been an interesting evolution of staying current with new state regulations and investing heavily in tracking the evolution of the consumer and, almost equally important, the budtender. What do they know? What do we need to teach them? How can we ensure the product is consumed properly? These are all concerns the public have and problems that our clients come to us with. We are in a unique position where laws dictate how we brand and data dictates design!
Before your pen even hits the sketchpad, you need to know what to leave room for and incorporate into your design. This is often heavily influenced by the laws in the state that you plan on opening, whether or not you're a producer, processor or retailer as well as if you are medical or recreational. Unfortunately, decades of false information have resulted in strict cannabis laws and this dictates how we design.
Here is some important information to consider putting on your label.
I've had cultivators deliver full-price flower to me that was over a year past its harvest date. They may say the flower tested at 25 percent, but keep in mind that THC loses its potency after a year, and the flower might be so dry that it burns before it’s even smoked. It is for this reason that you should include harvest dates in your packaging.
Quantity/ Size/ Mg
You can't judge how much flower you're buying just by looking at it. For example, a gram of dried flower may be larger or smaller from strain to strain, depending on how dense the buds grow. Because consumers are being exposed to a product that some are seeing for the first time in the shop, it is helpful to include the quantity, size, or milligram so that they can feel confident that they're purchasing the correct amount of flower, concentrate, or edibles to address their specific needs.
Each individual has an endocannabinoid system that responds uniquely to cannabinoids. On most cannabis brands, you are most likely to see THC and CBD as listed percentages since these are the cannabinoids the industry understands the best. But many consumers may not be aware that there have been over 113 cannabinoids identified. While THC and CBD are the most abundant cannabinoids in cannabis, we encourage companies to test for additional cannabinoids and to list any that test at 0.5% or above.
Related: 5 Things You Should Know About CBD
Cannabis science has yet to establish how many terpenes are in cannabis. However, research tells us that the terpenes are what dictates the type of high you will experience, the aroma the bud gives off, and the specific flavor. For example, the strain LA Confidential has abundant amounts of the terpene linalool, which is also found in many flowers and spices such as lavender. This terpene is responsible for the floral, sweet, and sometimes citrusy notes associated with the strain. Its effects are known to be calming and sedative, which can help bring relief to a medical patient who experiences chronic anxiety or for the recreational user who could have the edge taken off after a stressful day of work. Including these facts on your label can go a long way in helping the consumer match the strain to their preferences.
Those who use cannabis for medical purposes are concerned about the type of pesticides used during cultivation. Natural pesticides or pesticide-free options are usually what medical cannabis patients seek, and having this information available on the label for them takes one less stress out of healing. While recreational users are generally less concerned about the type of pesticides that are used, some may have sensitivities to various synthetic pesticides. Being transparent about pesticides can go a long way in earning their trust.
UBI – Producer, Processor, Retailer, Testing Lab
While not all states require the UBI (Unified Business Identifier) of the testing lab to be placed on the packaging, we feel this should be standard, alongside the producer and/or processor. Why? Consumers care about safety — no one is looking to have a subpar experience for a high price tag, nor do they want to over-consume. By including your testing lab, you demonstrate your brand’s commitment to empowering the consumer with the information they need to do their own research.
Not all facilities provide accurate testing. Like vendors who specialize in specific cannabis categories, different testing facilities test different products. This is why some vendors will test different product categories with different companies, depending on which one they feel is most accurate for that particular category.
Beware of vanity testing. These facilities are known for passing companies that failed tests at other labs. They will also provide significantly higher THC percentages than other facilities.