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Designing Attractive – and Compliant – Cannabis Product Labels


We all know labels are an essential part of cannabis product packaging. There are some cannabis-specific considerations that we’ve talked about in other posts, but cannabis consumers tend to make split-second purchasing decisions based on packaging and label design, just like any other consumer. Cannabis product labels are more than just a decorative “sticker”; they must also contain critical, and batch-specific information to stay in compliance with state regulations. Creating labels that are both attractive and compliant is one of the more frustrating challenges cannabis professionals face today. 


Last week, we talked about building a standout cannabis brand. Today, we’re taking the next step, and looking at some solutions to help you ensure your labels not only look great but also comply with regulations in your state. 


What are the types of cannabis product labels?

There are two categories of cannabis labels: primary panels and secondary (or information) panels. 


Primary panels

The primary panel is the label displayed on the front of a product’s packaging. We sometimes refer to this as the “Prime” or “Hero” label. It’s the first thing customers will see when your cannabis product is on the dispensary shelf. 


As a basic guideline, this label wants to have the “5, 3, 1” rule working for it. This rule means that the label is attractive and can communicate its message from five feet away when the customer is looking at the shelf, three feet away while the budtender is showing the product, and one foot away when the product is the customer's hand. 


The information required on the primary panel will differ state to state, but usually includes the branding, the name of the product, the net weight or volume of the contents, any universal cannabis symbols, and the specific batch or product tracking IDs. 


Most states have packaging and labeling requirements established in the state's cannabis legislation banning certain language or design elements that might be remotely appealing to children. “Cartoon” characters or mascots of any kind are prohibited in most states, and even certain bright color combinations are off-limits. Always be clear about your state regulations before labeling your cannabis products, and err on the side of caution. Disaster looks like producing your packaging elements, landing them at your facility, and then being told they are out of compliance. There is also no guarantee in some cases that one compliance officer is going to agree with another. Understanding the regs for your state is the key to being able to communicate with compliance and branding. 


Secondary panels

The secondary panel lists more detailed information about the product. Again, the requirements vary by state, but generally include:


Company name and contact information

Manufacture and/or harvest date

THC/THCA/CBD/CBN content 

Ingredients list and nutritional facts

Allergen information 

Serving size/dosage amount

Instructions for use

Pesticides or solvents used 

Expiration, “best by” or “use by” date, if any

Required warning statements and symbols


On the secondary label, cannabis brands may voluntarily include a more in-depth description of the product’s cannabinoid and terpene profiles, as well as a statement about its characteristic effects. Just be certain the information isn’t misleading and does not make health claims. This label is also subject to change per the batch of product, and starting material if it’s a concentrate or infused product


Putting it all together

Compliance should always be a top concern for cannabis manufacturers. But maintaining compliance doesn’t mean your cannabis labels have to be boring. Even with these restrictions, you can get creative and tell your brand story through label design. In addition to compliance needs, here are some must-haves for effective, good-looking cannabis product labels:


Clean layout

When so much compliance data is required, it can be easy to end up with a cluttered, unattractive label. Not only does this information need to be legible, but it also needs to be arranged in an aesthetically-pleasing way. Upgrading to a higher-resolution label printer is one way to gain greater control over the layout, fonts and sizes you can use on labels. If you want crisp, clean and professional-looking cannabis product labels, consider investing in a 300 dpi label printer over the basic 203 dpi versions. 


Durability 

It’s important that cannabis product labels withstand handling and be resistant to fading, abrasion, temperature variations and exposure to moisture in various environments. Durable labels are also secure and difficult to remove, which helps to prevent counterfeiting. Work with cannabis label experts to select the right materials and adhesives for your specific application. 


Personality  

Cannabis product packaging labels provide an opportunity to express your brand’s unique personality. Rack up style points with custom cannabis labels unique fonts, die-cut shapes and specialty label coatings and finishes. Add texture and dimension to flexographic labels with 3D holographic or Motion Coat effects. Incorporating these details on custom or pre-printed cannabis labels will go a long way in making your product stand out on the shelf without compromising compliance.  


Flexibility 

The cannabis industry is moving fast, and new and updated labeling regulations are happening all the time. If you don’t have flexibility in your labeling process, these rapid changes in the law can grind your business to a screeching halt. 


Printing cannabis labels in-house can be one solution for greater flexibility. With on-demand cannabis label printing, you’ll have complete control over the entire process. This way, any changes to state regulations can be made quickly and easily on your label design template, as well as any changes to your menu or ingredients. Plus, you’ll avoid waste by printing exactly the number of labels you need, when you need them! 


Delta9 Systems: Your Trusted Cannabis Label Partners 

At Delta9 Systems, we empower cannabis professionals with the label printing tools and resources they need to succeed in the competitive and ever-changing cannabis marketplace. We’ve worked with industry partners to develop tailor-made solutions for more attractive, effective and regulation-compliant labeling. It’s our goal to help customers create next-level labels and branding that will set their business apart while giving them the flexibility to adapt to the changes set forth by state lawmakers. 


Let us help you take your cannabis business to a Higher Level. Call us at 1-877-303-8957, or use our online contact form to get in touch with the Delta9 team today! 

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Chris Guthrie
Chris is the General Manager of Delta9 Systems, a division of General Data Co. He is an expert in the cannabis industry, having participated in the birth of the cannabis industry in Washington, and has operated one of the first and oldest medical dispensaries in Seattle. For a decade, Chris has participated in the design and managed the construction of dozens of indoor gardens, and has been involved in cultivation, processing, retail operations, as well as industry activism.
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