Making the push for 2020 with Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB)

The wild, wild west aspect of the cannabis industry is quickly getting whipped into shape, redefining laws associated for the better. With recent legalization, rules and compliancy standards are being adjusted more often than originally hoped, leaving small businesses scrambling to keep up.

Our partners at Empire pride themselves on running a straight ship, compliant at all times and proud of it. These rules can be challenging for any small business, but they are leading the charge into the future, carving out a pathway to sustainable revenue for all parties.

The purpose of this post is to document the experience working with the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB), and the transitioning of an edible product family into the revised WSLCB 2020 packaging laws, that was quickly approaching. With Empire already having a decent share of the market, any drastic design updates might spook the loyal customer base already acquired. These updates must stay relevant, gain compliancy, and secure market share for future years.

Below are a select few of the rules that made this project particularly challenging.

Global colors – All color specifications must follow the WSLCB approved 2020 color palette. (Above are the approved colors)

Typography colors – Must be confined to one color. Color option for that one color can be white, cream, grey, black, tan or brown.

Background colors – Background colors either can be white, cream, grey, black, tan or brown. Only one background color is allowed per package. This revision was the wrench in our design system. If you compare the 2018 samples with the now compliant 2020 samples, you will notice the significant refinement regarding background colors, and color pairing complexity.

Descriptive words – Words such as: Relax, happy, skin, neuro, confidence, appetite, functional, alive, awake, inspire, elevate, recharge distress, euphoric, recover, calm, bone, sleep were prohibited from packaging in an effort to avoid misleading as an approved therapeutic/curative medicinal.

Cohesive content – Disclaimers were required to be incorporated on all packaging, in all marketing, and on all web based sites. These disclaimers included:

• UNLAWFUL OUTSIDE WASHINGTON STATE

• It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana.

CAUTION: Intoxicating effects may be delayed by 2+ hours.

WARNING: May be habit forming.

• Heptane extracted FULLY ACTIVATED: 0mg THCA, 0mg CBDA. May be habit forming.

The Marijuana Universal Symbol(s) – Compliancy with article 314-55-106 is mandatory, and must be prominently visible on the front panel. Sized no smaller than .75 x .75 inches.

Visually appealing to children – This should be an obvious thing to avoid, it will not be found in our work but must be noted. The appealing aspect to children – it is to be avoided at all costs. Which really translates to children, teens, and easily influenced young adults, especially in the edible infused candy category. If the design system even dances closely to this appealing line, all efforts will be shot down before they ever hit the shelf. Some of the obvious things to avoid were no cartoon or comic characters whatsoever. This rule goes beyond caricatures; it includes bubble and cartoonish action typefaces.

The products displayed on the left-hand side display the packaging solution that was compliant in 2018. On the right-hand side we have the updated creative that is compliant and approved by the WSLCB for 2020.

THE RESULTS

Approved for print-production

Another important step we took, was visually articulating the art in a clear manner. We needed to assume the WSLCB approval board might not be familiar with flat-sheet print production, and proactively anticipate any question they might have at first site. You will notice in the 2020 sample above, portions have been masked out, and color call-outs have been provided to avoid any confusion. We also took the extra step of visually providing compliancy logo dimensions and positioning within the front panel. For further clarity, product mockups of all angles were also provided. With the 14-day approval window for each submission in a time-sensitive industry, it pays to have all bases covered before initiating the conversation with the WSLCB.

Throughout our exploration, we found the Washington State Liquor Control Board a pleasure to work with. They have a job that is necessary to safe guard our communities. It was a pleasure partnering with Empire on this design system update, and being proactive in the early stages helped expedite the approval process.