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Twelve leading design firms offer their visions for consumer marijuana in the 21st century.

BY SPENCER BAILEY AND LILY WAN


Long gone are the days of Reefer Madness and anti-marijuana McCarthyism. Since 2012, when Colorado and Washington became the first two states to pass laws taxing and regulating marijuana, its image in American culture has changed drastically. Over the past few years, cannabis retail stores in these states have become a common sight; last year, both Alaska and Oregon legalized weed, and several other states may soon join them.

Even though it’s prohibited to transport across state lines, marijuana is quickly turning corporate. The branding, packaging, and design of it, however, typically remains kitsch, cliché, and decidedly amateur. This too, though, appears to be changing, albeit slowly. Rapper Snoop Dogg’s Leafs by Snoop brand recently unveiled packaging conceived by New York firm Pentagram; Tommy Chong, of Cheech and Chong fame, is planning to mass-produce his professional-looking Chong’s Choice label; and private equity firm Privateer Holdings inked a 30-year licensing deal to create the contemporary-feeling Marley Natural. Designer smoking-accessories companies like Tetra and L.A.’s Mister Green Life Store have also entered the mix.

In light of the current bud rush, Surface asked 12 leading design studios to rethink marijuana branding and packaging. The brief we sent was simple: create a fictionalized aspirational marijuana brand—essentially, the future Starbucks of weed.

In turn, they supplied us with the name and concept of the brand, a logo, and basic packaging. Here, we present the results, which include three companies called Hi (a total coincidence), a weed-laced tea, and a marijuana-infused water concept targeting working moms. Consider this our effort to spur further conversation about the branding of marijuana, and where design fits into that. Perhaps the reefer business remains a bit mad after all.