Cannabis Packaging Guide: How Great Packaging Can Help Grow Your Cannabis and CBD Business Faster

The cannabis industry is no longer just a budding business idea.

Instead, it has bloomed into a huge industry. Just the medical use segment of the industry is expected to generate $22 billion in the next four years.

Today, 36 of the 50 states allow patients to use medical cannabis, with a proper prescription.

Cannabis packaging is too important to be overlooked, done in haste, or allowed to become outdated.

In fact, some of the strongest companies in the cannabis industry have built multi-billion dollar businesses based on strong brand identity.

The truth is that there’s a lot of competition in the cannabis industry. And, to succeed, you must stand out from the rest with custom branded packaging for your cannabis and CBD offerings.

Here’s what you should keep in mind when designing packaging for your cannabis or CBD products.

1. Cannabis packaging should attract your target customers

The Dieline

Packaging design matters

Compelling and high-quality product packaging plays a big role in a customer choosing one cannabis or CBD product over another.

As we recently wrote:

There is impressive evidence in support of the power of packaging design:

Attractive packaging triggered more intense activity in areas of the brain associated with impulsivity than neutral packaging.

Unattractive and attractive packaging lead to less activity in areas of the brain responsible for reflective thought than neutral packaging.

Attractive packaging triggered reward responses in the brain whereas unattractive packaging triggered areas associated with negative emotion.

Strong marijuana packaging is one of the most important ways to…

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Understand your customer and the experience you are promoting

Before you can create packaging solutions for your cannabis and CBD products, you must understand your target market, your prospective customers, and the experience you want to promote.

What pain point is your product solving for the consumer?

Here are a few customer profiles for you to consider.

Luxury cannabis and CBD customers

Lowell Farms

Luxury clients expect top quality products and packaging.

A product is considered a luxury when the brand status is elevated in the eyes of the customer.

As far as most customers are concerned, if a product is perceived as better than others – it is.

To aid in this perception, packaging options for premium products should be high quality, clean and minimal or luxe, and over-the-top.

And, the packaging should always deliver on the implied promises defined by the manufacturer or dispensary. In fact, if you want to start a marijuana dispensary, you should be thinking about the overall experience for your customers and how the products and packaging offered in your dispensary will stand out from others.

When designing packaging options for customers looking for luxury cannabis and CBD products,  be sure to consider the following:

  1. Quality: Luxury consumers expect high-value, designer packaging that functions impeccably.
  2. Sense: Luxury product packaging should provide a heightened tactile user-experience.
  3. Taste: Luxury product packaging should forgo the typical stereotypes associated with cannabis.

Millennial cannabis and CBD customers


Youthful clientele is drawn to authenticity. They’re burnt out on traditional advertising, coercive marketing, and carefully cultivated facades.

But, they’re open to trendy design, and unique product uses and experiences. And, they’re generally receptive to following celebrity and influencer endorsements from people they perceive to have values that align with their own.

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When designing packaging for Millennials, be sure to consider the following:

  1. Simplicity: Minimal, unadorned custom branded packaging appears authentic, and trustworthy. This type of packaging represents the product within, without frills or facades.
  2. Sustainability: Millennials tend to value environmental consciousness. They value sustainable packaging that offers alternatives to plastics. You’ll even get extra points if the packaging is made from renewable or plant-based materials.
  3. Limited Edition: Millennials want something not everyone can have. This is why scarcity marketing via special edition products is wildly popular.

Customers looking for relief

Abacus Health

All medical marijuana customers have a medical need for cannabis and CBD products. Though, qualifying conditions vary by state.

A recent study found that approximately two-thirds of medical marijuana patients define chronic pain as their chief reason for treatment.

Patients looking for pain relief for medical issues will be drawn to custom branded packaging that promises what they desire.

So, an emphasis on the efficacy of your product and the relief they will enjoy will be very persuasive for that audience.

When designing packaging for customers looking for relief, be sure to consider the following:

  1. Medical symbols: Packaging design should make it clear that your product delivers health benefits. Some brands choose to do this through logos pairing cannabis leaves with medical symbols. But, with so many medical cannabis brands hitting the market, that concept will be quickly played out and overdone; making it hard for your brand to stand out. So, think of other ways you can convey your product’s medical value to set your brand apart.
  2. Text: Use clear, concise copy describing your product and its benefits. Pain relief should be a focal point of the package messaging.
  3. Simple design: Clean package graphics and labels with ample white space will ensure that consumers can read the product packaging and find the necessary information with ease.

2. Cannabis packaging should inform

The best custom branded packaging design successfully balances design and information.

Custom packaging for any product must include basic product information on a custom printed label – preferably in a design that makes your product look appealing.

After all, as we emphasized in our guide on how to start a business, a strong brand identity is more important today than it has ever been.

But, medical marijuana packaging carries a heavier informational burden. Guidelines, which vary state by state, require that your packaging must include dosing information and instructions for safe use, as well as batch numbers and expiration details.

For reference, here is our handy content checklist for cannabis packaging:

Your content checklist for product packaging

  • Include the essential details
    • What’s inside?
    • How much?
    • What’s the potency and dosage?
    • When does it expire?
    • What’s the lot number?
  • Include reassuring qualifiers that your audience will value
    • Organic, CO2-Extracted, Full Spectrum, Contains Less Than 0.3% THC, etc.
  • Include your company’s contact info
    • Web Address
    • Customer Support Email
    • Customer Support Phone number
  • Include your visual branding elements
    • Logo
    • Tagline
    • Brand Colors
    • Small branded graphic elements

It is also important to be sure your packaging solutions meet state laws.

If you already have packaging for your cannabis and CBD products but are struggling to increase sales, perhaps it’s time to consider rebranding your company and your packaging.

3. Cannabis packaging should protect the product

Trend Hunter

When choosing marijuana packaging materials, consider both appearance and function.

The best marketing and package graphics in the world won’t hold much value if the product inside isn’t properly protected.

Keep the following protection guidelines in mind when developing your custom packaging:

  1. Proper seal: Packaging for products that are not single-use must be resealable and generally should be small proof. Containers with lids, adhesive closures, ziplock packaging, and boxes with interlocking closures are all options – which is right for your product?
  2. Child safety: Packaging must be difficult for children to open – it must be child-resistant (such as pop-top bottles that require some dexterity to open). Packages must adhere to the Poison Prevention Packaging Act.
  3. Tamper evident: Much like over-the-counter drugs, medical cannabis packaging must be designed in such a way that it is evident if the package has been tampered with.
  4. Sturdy materials: Select packaging that is sturdy enough to protect the product inside. Different products will present differing packaging requirements based on the level of protection they require.
  5. Edibles and beverages: States laws involving medical cannabis and consumable products are not created equal. In the states that do allow edibles and infused beverages, the packaging must be opaque.

Packaging design trends are a funny thing. Some burn fast and bright and then disappear… while others stand the test of time.

Either way, you should be aware of them when developing your cannabis packaging. And, the most important thing to remember is that the only design trends worth embracing are the trends that actively support your brand.

This means you may leave behind most design packaging trends. And, that’s okay.

So, here are a few trends that we think are gonna stick around for a while.

Leafy Imagery

Kiva Confections

While the marijuana leaf can be very cliche, it’s also the fastest way to make cannabis products identifiable when you use the leaf on your marijuana packaging.

And, many successful cannabis logos and package graphics incorporate the iconic leaf in new and modern ways.

In fact, the cannabis leaf is so highly recognizable, you can even change its color while still maintaining its effectiveness. So, don’t be afraid to experiment and get creative.

Environmentally-friendly packaging

Sun Grown Packaging

Consumers today are more environmentally-conscious than ever before.

Shoppers care about products being both good for them and for the environment. This is why “organic,” “sustainable,” and “raw” products are currently sought after.

And, this desire to minimize environmental impact transcends into the packaging realm, too. According to a recent Nielsen study, 3 out of 4 Millennials and 72% of Gen Z polled would pay more for a product with sustainable packaging.

Your cannabis packaging shouldn’t just be sustainable, it should look sustainable, too. Muted shades of natural colors help communicate how natural your products are.

Health focus

Canna Hemp

Medical marijuana patients have health issues to address. And, they want reassurance that your product can deliver a trusted solution.

So, emphasize the medicinal properties of your cannabis and cannabis-infused products by modeling your cannabis packaging after traditional medical packaging. And, as we mentioned above, this includes using clear copy and packaging design with ample white space.

Look at the medical brands you admire for further design inspiration that is relevant to your unique brand.

Minimalist cannabis packaging

Sunday Goods

If you feel you’re being beat over the head with suggestions to embrace minimalist packaging and design – get used to it.

The adage “less is more,” couldn’t be more true. And, minimalist design is enjoying a renaissance that shows no sign of waning. So, a minimalist approach to your packaging design will ensure a contemporary (read: desirable!) effect.

Black-and-white minimalist designs are particularly effective in high-end products.

Stereotype play

Woodstock Cannabis Company

Forget, for a moment, everything you know about steering clear of stereotypes.

The cannabis industry has some fun, historic culture that creates opportunities for clever marketing and design.

While this trend is used more heavily in the recreational cannabis realm, there can be a place for it in the medical arena when done tastefully.

Consider a play on words, or reference cannabis in a playful way, to help your brand stand out from the rest.

Wrapping it Up

With all products, it’s important to remember that the package is the first thing people will see. Great packaging design elevates your product and tells a story about who you are as a company.

But, medical marijuana packaging must also work to build trust and confidence in the efficacy of your product. Use these strategies to create the best packaging for your product and cannabis customers will buy over and over again.

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