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It’s the wild west out there and consumers are faced with a wide swath of cannabis package design options. Some packages appear to be stuck in the past with a homemade ‘rustic’ look. Others are clearly going after the “Apple of cannabis” look with sophisticated minimalism. When designing cannabis packaging we’ve found a half dozen pitfalls to avoid.

1. Make child-resistant features easy to figure out

Child-resistant packaging is the law, and it’s common sense to protect minors. However, we’ve come across many CR mechanisms that are confusing and/or frustrating even to adults.

At Flowsent we’ve had numerous complaints about customers trying to figure out how to open the bag. Even though the instructions are printed on the bag, we’ve learned humans generally don’t read this kind of stuff. We’ve heard stories of people going to find scissors to cut the bag open. We also heard from a woman who was battling mental illness and couldn’t figure out how to open the bag. She ended up cutting herself with a knife trying to stab the bag and get it open.

Child-resistant packaging should be intuitive like a new product from Apple. And we definitely don’t want to see patients who rely on medical cannabis to hurt themselves.

2. Consider the waste being created

Surely, most cannabis producers care about the environment. However, the cannabis industry has a way to go in improving the sustainability of cannabis packaging. Especially considering the product is a plant that grows in soil.

In many case, the selling points for a cannabis product is how it’s grown, its genetics and what chemicals (if any) were used. It can be a disconnect for the consumer when we take that beautiful hand-crafted weed and send it hope in a child-resistant mylar exit bag that is 0.0% recyclable. What are we saying to the consumer?

Having overly large packaging is an issue for your retailers and consumers. It takes up too much room in storage (and on shelf) at dispensaries, which means the retailers can’t keep as much of your product on hand. The end consumer doesn’t like opening a large box only to unwrap a small container of concentrate. Or get something big enough to hold a full ounce of flower when they’ve only purchased an eighth. Or remove and discard two layers of packaging before they get to the product.  

Mature, well-seasoned industries such as the yoga industry or even Whole Foods tell a consistent brand story and a commitment to being sustainable with every decision about every product and how it’s presented to consumers.

3. Overusing the word “organic”

Labeling a product as “organic” means it has been certified by the USDA as organic. While cannabis is illegal within the federal government it’s not possible for the USDA to certify a cannabis product as organic. You may list organic ingredients, but you can not use the word organic on the principal display panel (front of the package), or use the organic seal anywhere on the package.

In an effort to pack a marketing “punch”, and to meet child resistance and regulatory language requirements, we see some brands gravitating towards oversized or multilayered packaging.

4. Making inaccurate claims

Generally, most states where medical or recreational cannabis has been legalized there exists language in state rules stating health claims about a product must be supported by publicly available scientific evidence, including evidence from well-designed studies that were conducted in a manner that is consistent with generally recognized scientific procedures and principles.

The most important information—especially for medical patients—is consistent and accurate dose information. Not all patients enjoy the addition of THC in their medicine, but they understand the entourage effect. It’s critical for a product labeled with grams of THC be 100% accurate every time. We have personally experienced a few products that had significant variable amounts of THC in products that aren’t supposed to get you high.

5. Putting too much faith in a trademark

Since cannabis is illegal under the federal government and copyrights are upheld by the US copyright office, claiming a copyright or trademark is shaky ground. Talk with an attorney before assuming you will get protection by using these marks. There are ways you can get state level protection, but federal protection on matters that touch the plant are complicated. Talk with an IP or cannabis attorney.

photo: Legal Desire

It’s a bit early in the game to establish IP protection. On the front end it’s difficult to file for any sort of trademark, and on the back end few judges or attorneys have an appetite to go to battle over something that’s not 100% legal at a federal level.

6. Packaging that appeals to children

photo via The Journal

In 2020, we’re still seeing a significant amount of cannabis products with juvenile design. If legalization is going to work, the industry has to draw a line in the sand and say this is it. We’re no longer going to put products out there with packaging that looks like candy or something a minor would want. It’s one of the growing pains facing a multi-billion dollar industry that’s growing exponentially.

original story h/t InkBrite packaging