The Evolution of Cannabis Packaging
Over the years, cannabis packaging design has experienced a metamorphosis. Gone are the days of dime bags and zips, these days the industry must abide by government regulations that outline extremely stringent packaging laws. Now, the cannabis industry has a variety of packaging options available for producers and consumers. It’s a fun exercise in nostalgia to think back on the bygone days when stash cans and garbage bags were typical packaging for cannabis products, and then assess how far we’ve come — presenting the evolution of cannabis packaging.
The Early Days: 1850s to 1900s
Before Harry Ainslinger and the U.S. government killed the cannabis economy with the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, cannabis was commonly used in the United States. Available for purchase at apothecaries and general stores from the 1850s to the early 1900s, the budding marijuana industry packaged products in ceramic jars, tins, amber glass bottles and brown paper packaging. Cannabis was considered a main ingredient in the American pharmacopeia at the time and saw widespread use for a variety of ailments, in multiple formats like tinctures, syrups, pastes and salves.
Street Packaging of the Late 20th Century
As the War on Drugs raged on, the illegal status of cannabis drove the industry underground. Producers and sellers sought out discreet or novel ways to engage in underground commerce, thus beginning the years of the famed “dime bag.” The tiny, plastic bags emerged, selling small amounts of flower (think a bowl pack’s amount to about a gram) and graduated up to a “zip” or Ziploc bag that could carry as much as an ounce. Others packaged their products in cellophane, brown paper bags, and aluminum foil, while the more refined sellers utilized vacuum sealed bags for larger quantities.
During this period, “stash cans,” or jars disguised as common cans emerged. Innovation is often born out of necessity and the cannabis industry has never failed to innovate, even now.
Government Regulates Packaging for Cannabis Products
As legal medical marijuana programs began in states like California and Colorado in the 1990s, the need for regulated, pharmaceutical grade packaging paved the way for opaque mylar bags and plastic prescription bottles. These packages kept cannabis fresh and prevented degradation by exposure to light. For a brief period of time, producers utilized metal cans sealed with nitrogen, but found that cannabis flower quickly degraded once it was exposed to oxygen. After much trial and error, thick opaque plastics became the go-to product of choice for storing cannabis in a compliant and effective way. State regulatory bodies placed several requirements on cannabis packaging, including:
- Explicit product labels
- A tamper-resistant, child-proofing feature
- Several successful tests that prove children cannot open the packaging and access the product after five minutes
- Opaque and resealable packaging
Modern, Sustainable Cannabis Packaging Design
The widespread adoption of thick plastics as the cannabis packaging design of choice for the majority of the industry led to an unintended consequence: enormous amounts of plastic waste. Since most states do not have packaging recycling programs, consumers are left to toss their packaging after it’s used. It’s not only plastic jars that are contributing to the waste, either. These days, a trip to the dispensary includes sealed mylar bags, opaque plastic pre-roll containers, jars, or complex and excessive packaging for things like vape cartridges and concentrates.
As the problem of plastic cannabis packaging becomes more visible, consumers and producers alike are attempting to solve this packaging problem by advocating for more sustainable packaging solutions. Eco-friendly cannabis packaging doesn’t have to sacrifice compliance, safety or freshness either. There are many packaging companies working to create excellent packaging solutions that don’t hurt the planet. HiSierra prides itself on developing high-quality and customizable packaging solutions for the cannabis industry. Modern technology allows us to create bioplastics and plant-based materials that mimic the desirable properties of plastics and mylars, without wreaking havoc on our environment.
Consumers have a plethora of options when considering the most effective ways to store their weed at home. Glass storage containers with food-grade silicone caps, airtight metal boxes, wooden “cigar” boxes made especially for cannabis, ceramics, stoneware, as well as packaging with carbon filters and vacuum sealing technologies. There’s no shortage of innovative solutions for storing your stash of cannabis. Whether you’re loud and proud about storing your weed, or prefer more discreet canisters, there’s a cannabis packaging company out there making the product for you.
If you’re a producer searching for eco-friendly packaging solutions, look no further than HiSierra. Choose from a variety of packaging solutions made from recycled ocean plastics and plant-based materials. Not to mention, HiSierra takes it a step further by implementing sustainable manufacturing methods like wind-power. You can feel good about the way you’re packaging your cannabis products and rest easy knowing that cannabis will stay fresh, be protected from light, and remain compliant with government packaging regulations. It’s a win-win situation for any conscious cannabis company seeking ways to mitigate our industry’s enormous plastic problem. The evolution of cannabis packaging design has come a long way, but we’re not done. Together, we can keep cannabis green.