Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

The Cannabis Edible Goes Mainstream

Illustration by Nicholas Konrad / The New Yorker

Amid the legalization of marijuana in many states, designers are working out how to sell edibles to a new generation of consumers.

For the past decade, the pinnacle of California package design has been the Apple box, with its minimalist exterior, layers of white-on-white fittings, and glossy tech product encased within. Sleek, seamless, promising you the world—made in China, designed in California—at the swipe of your fingertips. But recently a different industry has taken over innovation in hand-held products. An industry interested in local. An industry interested in social. An industry interested in taking you on a surprisingly autobiographical trip.

I speak of cannabis, now legal for recreational use in twenty-one states and D.C. The cultural handoff from high tech to high times seems just right for our not quite post-pandemic moment, with its halting return to IRL encounters, its panoply of stressors, and its personal branding of everything. Growing the cannabis market, however, has required repackaging a product that originally came in generic plastic bags and rolling papers, in varieties that were named for a location, an aroma, or an in-joke. Things have become a little more complicated now that cannabis is legit and you are selling a product in a palm-size package, from dispensaries that cater to millions of newbies.