As more and more states legalize cannabis for medical or recreational use, a new industry is emerging: cannabis branding. Companies are jockeying for position, trying to create the most memorable, recognizable brand possible in a sea of competitors.
But where do we draw the line between effective branding and exploitative marketing? Some people worry that cannabis branding can be especially problematic, given the drug's history of being stigmatized and criminalized.
For example, some cannabis brands feature cartoonish logos and bright, child-friendly colors, leading some to accuse them of marketing to young people. Others worry that certain brands rely on racist stereotypes or cultural appropriation to sell their products.
So what are the ethical considerations of cannabis branding? How can we make sure that companies are behaving responsibly when it comes to marketing a drug that is still illegal on the federal level? And more importantly, what will that look like when the inevitability of federal legalization arrives?
One solution is to regulate cannabis branding more closely. States that have legalized cannabis could set guidelines for what kinds of logos, colors, and other branding elements are allowed. They could also prohibit any marketing that targets minors or relies on harmful stereotypes.
But regulation is only part of the solution. Cannabis companies themselves need to take responsibility for their branding practices. They should avoid anything that could be seen as exploitative or insensitive, and they should prioritize transparency and education over slick marketing campaigns.
At the end of the day, cannabis branding is a tricky subject. On the one hand, companies have a right to market their products effectively. On the other hand, we need to make sure that cannabis branding isn't perpetuating harmful stereotypes or targeting vulnerable populations. Look through the Weed.Army blogs, I dare you. You will not see scantily clad individuals using sexuality to sell. It's a choice we've made and this writer is 100% behind it.
As cannabis continues to be legalized across the United States, we need to have a serious conversation about the ethics of cannabis branding. It's time to blaze new trails in this emerging industry, while staying true to our values of responsibility and respect.