While cannabis is still considered a controlled substance at the federal level, it’s clear attitudes about marijuana are changing throughout all walks of society. (According to a Pew Research survey, two-thirds of Americans say marijuana should be legal, and over 90% say it should be legal for medical use.)
The marijuana industry is rapidly transforming into a retail business like any other — or, at least, similar to strongly-regulated product categories such as alcohol and OTC medications. And with retail sales comes the need for high-quality product labels.
In the cannabis market, product labels play several roles:
- Attracting and informing customers who may be new to marijuana.
- Representing the brand’s identity.
- Providing critical regulatory information.
- Offering instructions for safe use.
Here are some crucial factors to consider when designing and selecting custom labels for marijuana products:
1. Labeling Regulations Vary by State
Cannabis sales are regulated at the state level, meaning that marijuana brands must comply with different sets of regulations everywhere they do business.
In Illinois, for example, the rules say that product packaging must exclude certain features, such as pictures of people under 21, cannabis leaves, and images likely to appeal to minors, such as cartoons and animals. Nearby Michigan has a similar regulation, adding that edible marijuana products should not be “easily confused with commercially sold candy.”
California law says the packaging of edible cannabis products cannot include a picture of the product, and that the edibles must be in opaque packaging.
Depending on the state, marijuana labeling requirements may include:
- Listing the THC and CBD content prominently.
- Labeling each product with a unique serial number that can be matched to a cultivation center or craft grower batch or lot number.
- Indicating the place and date of manufacture or growth.
- Listing other ingredients and use-by dates.
- Including government-mandated warning language.
- Writing in English in a readable font.
- Writing in a second language in a readable font.
- Not making unproven health claims.
This is not, by any means, a comprehensive list of the many state regulations concerning marijuana labels and product packaging. We strongly recommend checking your state’s laws before marketing your product. It’s also smart to work with a label printer with previous experience in the marijuana industry.
2. The Packaging Makes a Difference
Will you package your marijuana product inside a bag, a box, or a bottle? Is the product dried flower, a pre-roll, an extract, a vape cartridge, or an edible? Are you selling seeds?
As with almost any product, the shape and substance of the container often dictate the type of label you need.
For example, if you're selling disposable all-in-one vape pens, the label will typically wrap tightly around the vape itself. This creates a flagging risk.
(Flagging happens when labels pull back into their original flat positions when wrapped around cylindrical surfaces. Flagging can be prevented by allowing an overlap zone so the label can stick to itself.)
Vape pen labels may also need cutout zones to display the amount of concentrate remaining (plus a label on the box the vape pen or cartridge comes in).
Other marijuana products come packaged in tins or jars, which have their own unique characteristics. Certain label adhesives adhere to porous surfaces such as cardboard or paper but fail when used with glass or metal.
Keep in mind, when it comes to cannabis labels, durability matters. Illinois regulations, for example, state that labels must be “securely affixed.” Be sure to speak to your label printer about your intended application surface so they can help you create a label that holds strong and looks terrific.
3. Branding Makes the Bud
As marijuana goes mainstream, branding becomes an important consideration for companies looking to stand out. As with wine or beer, there’s no single type of cannabis consumer. You want a look and feel to your marijuana label that appeals to your target market.
An article from the marijuana industry magazine MG notes the importance of brand identity among cannabis companies:
“Consumers seldom buy product features. They buy because they want to feel a certain way, they want to think about themselves in a certain way, or they want other people to perceive them in a certain way. What you really sell is what makes the difference between a great company and all the others. Sell a story, a promise, a lifestyle, a narrative.”
In an effort to shed stereotypes and legitimize a now-legal industry, marijuana package design is going upscale, with classy typefaces (such as the ones chosen by Henry’s Original, below) ...
...premium presentation (like these Doug’s Varin vape pens) ...
...and old-timey imagery (like the logo on these packages of Lowell Smokes prerolls).
None of this is to say the fun has gone out of marijuana label design. It can be, after all, a “recreational” product. It all comes down to how you want to present your product and how you want to speak to your customers.
Fun and funky colors and imagery may work for your brand. (Just keep in mind state regulations against inadvertently attracting minors with your packaging.)
Other things to think about when designing your cannabis product label include:
- Do you want different variations of your label for different plant strains? (For example, blue for indica, red for sativa, and purple for hybrid.)
- Do you require extra space on your label to tell your brand story, describe the strain, or impart other informative points to your customers?
- Do you prefer a standard shape (like a rectangle or oval) or a custom shape?
With all the regulations involved, creating a label for a marijuana product can seem like a challenge, but it can also be an enjoyable exercise in creativity.
If you need help designing a label that will elevate your cannabis brand above the competition, while complying with your state’s laws, contact The Label Printers today.