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PHOTO ESSAY

The beautiful packages of pot

Maggie Shannon for Quartz
It’s what’s on the outside that counts.
Published This article is more than 2 years old.

It turns out that the oldest dealer cliche, that weed sells itself, comes with an asterisk: In fact, illegal pot sells itself. Once high-quality product can be grown openly, at minimal risk, marijuana becomes just another crop vulnerable to the same marketing trap as breakfast cereal, with every company trying to put its own branding on a roughly similar commodity.

The market has begun to segment into brands, each with its own demographic target—professional women, perhaps, or retiring baby boomers who are looking for relief from the indignities of aging. Regulations, meanwhile, prohibit cannabis companies from using traditional advertising avenues such as television commercials or billboard advertising. So the biggest chance products have for standing out is in the store itself, a mission that has resulted in some of the most stand-out packaging in retail.


Welcome to our field guide on the cannabis industry. Check out other parts of our deep dive here.


Los Angeles-based photographer Maggie Shannon shot several brands’ packaging at Cannary West, a recently opened dispensary just a block away from LA’s famed Apple Pan restaurant. While some packages aped the styles of high-end confections, others looked downright clinical. Take a look below at what marijuana looks like once it goes from illegal dime bag to aspirational luxury item.

Maggie Shannon for Quartz
Two brands of vape pens.
Maggie Shannon for Quartz
A cannabis-infused beverage and gummies.
Maggie Shannon for Quartz
Cannabis flower and a pen for cannabis oil.
Maggie Shannon for Quartz
Cannabis-infused granola, and gummies.
Maggie Shannon for Quartz
These both contain actual, unrefined marijuana flower.
Maggie Shannon for Quartz
A vape pen and a cannabis-infused chocolate.