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Take Pride in the Details: How to Upgrade Your Cannabis Labels


If you are a cannabis producer and processor today, you take great pride in your work. There is nothing easy about this life, and most days it is just straight-up stressful. The licensing process is a maze, the regulatory environment is hostile, the market undefined and there is no day from your first to this one that was not full of decisions that required careful consideration. 

Growers agonize over the type of fertigation lines and emitters to choose, and which cloning setup and regimen to implement. We all know growers who guard their nutrient recipe like Colonel Sanders guarded his special blend of herbs and spices. From the gloves you wear to the scissors you trim with, you put hours of time and care into your operation. You don’t settle for the industry standard unless you are looking for standard results; you carefully research the best products and methods to make a conscious decision about every single aspect of your cannabis. You make a conscious choice about everything you can. 

Recently we’ve noticed a choice being made by lots of producers and processors, and it’s time to upgrade that choice. Let’s talk about labels.


Why great cannabis labeling matters

A key question to ask early in your packaging process is, “How do you convey the value and quality of your product, a product that consumers can’t taste or smell?” It’s our experience that it’s all about the presentation of the product, and that is great packaging and labeling. The look and feel of the container you present your product in can be the most important opportunity available to endow that product with value. It is the Garden’s best chance to tell the customer how they as an organization feel about their product. Even if you choose to package your product in simple, silver mylar bags, it’s essential to choose the right label for your product.

Most of us know the importance of prime, or brand, labels that go on the front of a package. These labels are the first thing consumers will see on the shelf, so they have to be eye-catching and high-quality. Secondary labels, on the other hand, are placed on the back of the package, and contain all the things regulators require. For cannabis products, these labels will include variable information like the barcode, batch number, harvest and package dates and cannabinoid potency. 

Unlike prime labels, secondary labels tend to put function over form. They’re traditionally printed as quickly and cheaply as possible using black or grayscale graphics on thermal printers. The result is usually an unattractive, low-resolution label that seems like an afterthought, which might not instill much consumer confidence in your cannabis product. 

If you want to turn a budtender against your product line really fast…make them scan an unreadable barcode during a rush. Products and brands that are hard for retailers to work with don’t end up in their customers' hands as much as clean ones, because they are a pain to deal with.


It’s time to give these cannabis labels an upgrade

Despite their functional purpose, secondary labels are equally as important as prime labels, especially for cannabis producers/processors. One of the differences between cannabis and any other product is its unique, batch-by-batch characteristics. While the prime label is necessary, it’s the secondary label that will convince savvy cannabis customers to choose a particular product over another. The information on these labels also represents the culmination of your entire team working together to produce this final product, for sale in a legal cannabis store. There’s a lot to be proud of just in that sentence alone.

Secondary labels give you an opportunity to put your team’s skill on full display. Adding a more comprehensive cannabinoid and terpene profile to your package is a nice way to talk to your customers in the cannabis community, and show them that you put time care and effort into producing what they are about to enjoy. It stands to reason that the secondary label deserves to have the same level of quality as the prime label on the front of the product. 

There are several solutions that we recommend for cannabis producers and processors looking to step up their printing and labeling game:


Improve resolution

The easiest way to make your secondary variable data label match the time and effort you put into your prime label is by upgrading from an industry-standard 203 dpi (dots per inch) label printer to a 300 dpi printer. Adding resolution is a game-changer because it gives you greater flexibility in the fonts and sizes you can use. Instead of being constrained in your label design by readability, you can use a custom layout and even simple monochromatic graphics. This small upgrade makes for a crisper, cleaner and more professional-looking label. 



Get the best of both worlds

Another great piece of technology for cannabis producers/processors is a printer with the flexibility of both direct thermal and thermal transfer printing capabilities, like the SATO WS412. This printer is great for cannabis facilities because you can use the thermal transfer setting to print plant tags on durable wax resin ribbon. This material is resistant to abrasion, fading and exposure to moisture, meaning it will last an entire season and withstand rough handling in the garden. When you’re not using this printer in the garden, you can use it in the front office to print high-quality, 300 dpi final product labels with the direct thermal printing setting. With this versatile tool, you can maximize productivity and get the best return on your investment. 




Enhance your brand with color

Most cannabis facilities use standard, black and white thermal transfer printing for their secondary labels. But, as we all know, everything looks better in color! Adding a splash of color or company logo to your secondary label will add legitimacy to your product and help it stand out on the shelf. 

New this year, technology by Epson is making it possible to print full-color color labels on-demand. If you’re currently running pre-printed color labels through a thermal printer to add variable data, switching to this printer will help you save time and money. 


We understand that for cannabis facilities, there is no right “one-size-fits-all” label printing solution. That’s why the Delta9 Systems team works with our customers to analyze their facility needs and workflow, and specify the right cannabis label printing solutions in the right locations, for the right price. 

Let us help you take your cannabis business to a Higher Level! Connect with us to learn more about our range of cannabis systems and solutions. 

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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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