Likening the mounting marijuana industry to the “wild, wild west” is an admittedly cliché simile but it’s also enduring for a reason. While the end of marijuana prohibition is a frontier, it’s a familiar one. There’s a sense of chaos and confusion whenever an attempt at grafting order and regulations onto the uneven foundation is introduced. So many facets of the weed business are up for debate and under scrutiny as the United States prepares for likely legalization on a federal scale. While we wait, a certain amount of banditry is to be expected. When it’s as if a balloon full of money is inflating over our heads, who can blame the people for pushing each other over to get the best spot or pooling their resources to get the biggest bucket in hopes of catching a prime chunk of what will inevitably rain down when that bubble pops. While there are a lot of ways to get the “biggest bucket”, one of the most vital for serious businesses is branding. This is why, despite shaky legal legs, businesses are still branding their logos on weed stickers and cannabis packaging.
UPDATE: S/He Who Knows the Most Grows the Most
While trademarking a cannabis product is still mired in the same uncertainty it was when we first published this blog post, the importance of building a strong brand has become clearer to many companies. Strong brands are beginning to stick out across the industry but particularly in the concentrates, vaping and edibles businesses. Forbes recently published
a piece hypothesizing that knowledge may be the key to developing a strong brand at this point in the development of the cannabis industry. Knowledge and trust often go hand-in-hand in establishing a brand so this isn’t a new concept. But to the average American, the cannabis industry is still very much a frontier and the best guides are bound to reap rewards that could place them firmly at the head of the pack.
What’s in Weed Stickers, Mascots, Logos, and Brands
The relevance of flashy weed stickers emblazoned with the name of one of Snoop Dogg’s signature strains may seem to have relevance but this type of packaging lands in a very vulnerable area as far as the law is concerned. While the “wild, wild west” ethos has worked out all right for many facets of the cannabis industry, patenting is one aspect that desperately requires the blessing of the federal government to actually work.
But cannabis-based businesses aren’t simply pining for an end to prohibition. Rather they’re using a loose network of business savvy, out-of-the-box thinking, and state-level legal loopholes to navigate their way closest to the prize so that when federal legalization inevitably breaks, they’ll be first in line for the benefits. Many businesses have already filed for trademark in their states in hopes of fast-tracking through the federal trademark process when it becomes available. Currently, efforts for federal trademarks on marijuana-related products are being stonewalled. Luckily for marijuana-related businesses, many of their logos and products that aren’t specifically linked to cannabis are still eligible for federal trademarking and patenting. So while the contents of boxes displaying weed stickers may be patent-free, the logo proudly printed on said weed stickers has quite possibly been trademarked.
A Sophisticated Approach to Marijuana Packaging
Snoop Dogg has recently unveiled his new line of designer weed-based products under the banner Leafs by Snoop
. This makes use of the industry’s current trend of bunking trademark and patent restrictions by harnessing the power of celebrity endorsement. Leafs by Snoop
products serve as an example of how packaging works in marketing for the cannabis industry. Gone are the gaudy weed stickers covered in tie-dye and happy faces struggling to keep their eyes open. Instead designer Emily Oberman was drafted to create distinctive, tasteful marijuana packaging that utilizes the trendy California Cool style to create breezy, casually mature packaging that bucks the stereotype. The whole thing is sealed with a classy gold leaf bearing the Leafs by Snoop
logo, undoubtedly trademarked. But chances are the contents of the box are not trademarked and won’t be until marijuana is legalized at a federal level.
Branding Gone Wrong
While Leafs by Snoop
introduces marijuana branding done right, other companies have taken alternative routes and gotten burned. Hershey’s filed lawsuits against edibles with remarkably similar logos to some of their candy products resulting in the accused companies having to jettison their relevant inventory. Edibles are a particularly hot target due to the ultimate industry crime of marketing to children. Colorado governor John Hickenlooper was quoted last Thursday as saying, “Back in the day, candy cigarettes desensitized kids to the dangers of tobacco – and today, pot-infused gummy bears send the wrong message to our kids about marijuana. Let’s ask ourselves if we’re doing enough to make sure that edibles do not so closely resemble the same products kids can find in the candy aisle.”
In a post-Joe Camel marketing world, weed stickers and marijuana mascots aren’t cute if they’re deemed too suggestive to children. With Girl Scout Cookies season upon us, the Girl Scouts of America have hit growers with cease-and-desist letters over a strain dubbed Girl Scout Cookies. Yes, even strains are vulnerable. It’s this defenselessness that finds marijuana businesses truly in need of reform at the national level. While these businesses may have found temporary solutions and band-aids to their patenting problems, they are inevitably fighting a tank with a toothpick when they enter into a legal war with any company with legitimate, federally-sanctioned trademarks.