2018 is shaping up to be a big year for medical and recreational marijuanaconstellation brands, an international producer of drinks like corona, modelo, and svedka, made a $4 billion investment into the legal weed market. last month, cresco labs raised $100 million in private investment and signed ex-nike lead designer scott wilson as chief experience officer. even coca-cola has teased the possibility of getting into the cannabis business.

 

cannabis is big money – its estimated that legal marijuana could be a $57 billion industry by 2027. as the green grows to become more mainstream, entrepreneurs are keeping an eye on a budding industry, and companies are coming up with new ideas for packaging and retail experiences in an attempt to rebrand it.

designing the cannabis industry: how a marijuana market is fast growing

image courtesy of mindy’s edibles

 

 

the market remains relevantly untapped despite having a legal evolution spanning almost fifty years. the first country to fully legalize marijuana might have been uruguay in 2013 but cannabis has been available from specialist coffee shops in the netherlands since 1976. california extended allowances for recreational two years ago in 2016, and then there’s canada which legalised marijuana in october of this year. a drug once synonymous with stoner culture has surely grown to become a socially acceptable business but thanks to a large influx of start-ups it now has the potential to become a socially acceptable activity.

designing the cannabis industry: how a marijuana market is fast growing

image courtesy of cresco labs

 

 

what we are beginning to see is marijuana startups mimicking tech companies’ style of marketing and branding with companies like toast, herbessntls, and medmen taking cues from apple. it’s not dissimilar to the e-cigatette/vape pen phenomenon, introduced in 2004, which threatened the smoking industry as new-tech alternative promising a ‘healthy’ way to kick the habit.

designing the cannabis industry: how a marijuana market is fast growing

scott wilson, image courtesy of mnml

 

 

at cresco labs it’s wilson’s job to come up with the smartest way of selling this new alternative. from potentially new products and paraphernalia, to making the packaging of cannabis something people want to interact with. it’s an unusual transformation of a discreet and fluid culture of drug-takers, slowly emerging from the shadows to become an industry where every single step is not only considered, but actually designed. 

 

 

cannabis is going through a process of rebranding, soon to become something stores would want to display, and that consumers will not be ashamed to show off. once destigmatized, weed could have its place attracting various demographics. it could even become the next coffee or alcohol, in which case communication is key: what can consumers expect? and from what exact dosage? 

designing the cannabis industry: how a marijuana market is fast growing

image courtesy of medmen

 

 

it could have a positive impact on the plethora of CBD containing products that already exist on the market too. this is the kind without THC, the psychoactive constituent of cannabis. with this sort of strain made legal for consumption, products like oils, creams and even edibles like jam, which are not psychoactive, are bound to become more acceptable and more popular.

designing the cannabis industry: how a marijuana market is fast growing

image courtesy of herbessntls

 

 

the legalization of weed and its movement towards becoming socially acceptable comes at a time when a growing wellness industry can really exploit it. CBD extract has been used for years to treat conditions such as arthritis pain, anxiety and insomnia. promises of a ‘mild euphoria’ and increasing levels of happiness, packaged in flavoured products based on moods like joy, passion, and calm, can ride off the back of a recent boom in wellbeing. it helps that some of these concoctions are low in sugar and calories too.

designing the cannabis industry: how a marijuana market is fast growing 

image courtesy of cresco labs

 

 

these products respond to a change in consumer behaviour that is likely to become more evident as cannabis gains legality. as it becomes mainstream, consumers will increasingly opt for products with healthier ingredients. who wouldn’t prefer a CBD or THC containing food or beverage which promises a buzz without the hangover?

designing a cannabis industry for the fast growing marijuana market

image courtesy of dirty lemon

 

 

but consumers will still need some reassurance and self-regulation will emerge as an important buzzword. american electronic vaporizer company PAX has developed an app-controlled product which allows consumers to monitor the amount inhaled. like the aforementioned e-cigs and vape pens these devices work by loading oils, in this case cannabis oil.

designing a cannabis industry for the fast growing marijuana market

image courtesy of pax

 

 

then there are other questions plaguing the industry, which no doubt design will have a hand in answering. what environmental impact will marijuana have as a burgeoning market? how will its production and consumption alter retail spaces? will weed crossover into the hospitality industry? if so, how will either one cope with such a merge? these questions are being navigated by the various startups and big players working to make an impact in the market. both them and these questions will have a lot of influence over the predominant format for product usage in the end.