From homemade clay pots to sandwich baggies to elite, smell-proof glass stash jars, the way in which we contain our bud has come a long way.
History of Cannabis + Packaging
The cannabis plant has been around since pretty much the beginning of time. With a myriad of uses and potential benefits, its use and influence on culture is nearly ubiquitous throughout history. While there have been ups and downs in its storied past, cannabis remains a crucial part of so many people’s lives.
Cannabis packaging also has an interesting background. From homemade clay pots to sandwich baggies to elite, smell-proof glass stash jars, the way in which we contain our bud has come a long way. Here is Canlock’s ultimate history of cannabis (and cannabis packaging!).
Tale as Old as Time
As we mentioned in the beginning of this guide, the cannabis plant has been present on this planet for thousands of years. A comprehensive ethnopharmacological review conducted by scientists and published in 2018 in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology offers incredible insight on the evolution of the plant.
Cannabis sativa originated in the Central and Southeast regions of Asia. Its use by humans dates back to at least the third century BCE. Initially, it was mostly used in the making of rope due to its fibrous nature, but it was also used medicinally. Emperor Chen Nung, regarded as an early pioneer of agriculture in China, included the plant in the first Chinese pharmacopeia around 5,000 years ago. That text said cannabis was prescribed for “fatigue, rheumatism and malaria.”
That’s not to say that ancient people didn’t also use cannabis recreationally. According to a 1976 study by Vera Rubin, ancient Assyrians around the same time discovered the psychoactive properties of the plant. Used in some of their religious ceremonies, the Assyrians called it “qunubu” (meaning “way to produce smoke”). Many scholars believe “qunubu” then became “cannabis”.
Fast forward to the 12th century, when hashish (refined cannabis resin) became popular in the Middle East and Africa. Industrial hemp meanwhile continued to spread around the world, including into the western hemisphere. Early settlers in Virginia decreed that all farmers in the colonial land plant both native and English hemp for the good of society.
Cannabis continued to be used for both industrial, medicinal, and recreational purposes well into the early 20th century. Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom famously regarded hash candies as the perfect antidote to menstrual cramping. But things took an unsettling turn following the prohibition of alcohol in the United States in the 1920s.
“Reefer Madness” Takes Hold
Attitudes toward the plant began to change in the early 1930s. Anti-cannabis propaganda films, such as the infamous “Reefer Madness,” portrayed tokers as murdeous, sex-crazed maniacs, fueling the criminalization movement across the country. In 1937, the United States government enacted the “Marihuana Tax Act,” effectively criminalizing both cannabis and hemp. Many view the move as racist ideology manifesting through the use of policy due to the fact that the majority of cannabis users at the time were of Latino or African-American descent.
The 1970s brought a renewed interest in eradicating global cannabis use via the United States’ “War on Drugs.” President Richard Nixon, wishing to demonize the anti-war left wing and African-American populations (both of whom he associated with cannabis use), declared drugs to be “public enemy number one.” He designated cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic, grouping it with heroin and LSD, leading to a massive uptick in arrests and prosecutions for mere possession of the plant.
The War on Drugs kicked into high gear (no pun intended) in the 1980s under the Reagan administration, thanks in part to First Lady Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign. Non-violent drug incarcerations skyrocketed as “mandatory minimum sentencing” guidelines were enacted across the country. Anti-drug hysteria gripped the nation, especially as the so-called “crack epidemic” tore through inner city communities of color.
Cannabis in the American Modern Era
Things began to change for the better in 1996, when California voters passed Proposition 215, effectively legalizing medical marijuana in the state. “Compassion clubs” designed to service seriously ill patients including those suffering from cancer and AIDS sprouted up, thanks in part to activists like Dennis Peron and “Brownie” Mary Rathbun.
A number of other states began to legalize “medical marijuana” in the 00s but it wasn’t until 2012 that voters in two states, Washington and Colorado, decided to approve recreational (also called adult-use) cannabis. Today, the majority of Americans live in a place where some form of cannabis is legal, while in 2018, Canada became the first G-8 country to completely legalize cannabis nationwide.
Weed in Pop Culture
From Cheech & Chong to Snoop Dogg to Willie Nelson to Seth Rogen, cannabis smokers have permeated pop culture in the United States and beyond. In the earlier part of the 20th century, cannabis use was more associated with jazz music. In the 1950s and 1960s, it became a symbol of the counterculture movement specifically beatniks and hippies. Fast forward to today: celebrity-endorsed cannabis products have become all the rage in legal states, while TV shows like “Weediquette” and “Bong Appetit” bring the MJ lifestyle right into the comfort of American homes.
Some of the most prominent tokers throughout history include playwright William Shakespeare, poet Maya Angelou, and President Barack Obama, who famously said, “When I was a kid, I inhaled – that was the point.”
Types of Cannabis (and How They’re Packaged)
Cannabis is a plant first and foremost. The flower is harvested, dried, cured, and trimmed into the gorgeous nuggets we have come to know and love. But the fun doesn’t stop there as more and more methods of consumption are developed. From edibles to dabs, there are many methods of cannabis consumption these days.
Smoking cannabis, whether in a joint or blunt or out of a bowl, bong, or vaporizer, remains the quintessential way to consume. It’s hard to say how ancient cannabis was stored but presumably it was kept with other medicinal herbs. The modern history of flower packaging begins in the mid to late 1800s when large-scale pharmaceutical operations stored their product in airtight containers made of tin. It was discovered that cannabis loses potency if exposed to light for too long, hence the popularity of opaque containers. Ceramic jars were also adopted by apothecaries that sold cannabis to the general public.
Upon the criminalization of cannabis, the ways in which it was stored shifted. In the late 1960s, resealable plastic bags were introduced to the masses. These became increasingly popular for illegal cannabis sales as they were inexpensive and easy to obtain. The advent of legal cannabis sales has seen yet another shift as the majority of cannabis is now sold in airtight, child-resistant glass or plastic jars.
Refined cannabis extracts have existed for centuries but have exploded in popularity in recent years thanks to innovations in the manufacturing process. Hashish, the oldest known cannabis concentrate, is made by pressing trichomes (the active ingredient in the plant) into compacted balls or blocks. Butane hash oil (BHO) has become extremely prevalent, coming in different consistencies such as shatter, wax, and budder. BHO uses butane as a solvent to extract cannabinoids from cured cannabis. Live resin, on the other hand, is processed right after the plant is harvested using either butane or CO2. Rosin products are made by applying extreme heat and pressure to cured cannabis, essentially “squishing” out active material.
Modern cannabis concentrates have seen a mini packaging evolution over the last decade or so. Parchment paper was initially favored due to the sticky nature of most dabs. However, folding and unfolding the paper over and over again is problematic, so small silicone containers soon became the norm. Things changed again within the last couple of years as small glass stash jars became the prevalent packaging option for concentrate producers.
People have been eating cannabis since the Middle Ages but the advent of the contemporary edible didn’t occur until 1954 when Alice B. Toklas published a best-selling cookbook that included a recipe for hash fudge (loosely based on Middle Eastern mahjoun balls). The fudge ultimately turned into a cakier version in the late 1960s and for the following three decades, “special” brownies became the quintessential cannabis confection. Nowadays, cannabis can be found in everything from cookies to popcorn to sodas to hot sauce.
Packaging for cannabis edibles hasn’t delineated too far over the last several years. Brownies once secured in cling wrap are now placed in child-resistant bags or plastic trays. What has changed the most is the amount of information on the label, since most states with legal cannabis require potency and pathogen testing results to be printed on the package, along with warnings about consumer safety.
Lotions, salves, and balms containing cannabis have exploded in popularity thanks to their ability to offer localized relief without psychoactivity. Topicals are especially attractive for senior citizens dealing with arthritis or joint pain and athletes who need something to soothe aching muscles after a big game or intense workout. These products are typically kept in glass or plastic jars and tubes for ease of use.
Sativa vs. Indica – What’s the Difference?
There are thousands of different cannabis cultivars, each offering a unique experience and taste. Some are uplifting while others are more sedative; one cannabis strain may make you feel creative while another makes you feel introspective.
In general, cannabis strains are typically grouped into one of three categories: sativa, indica, or hybrid (a combination of the two). Sativas grow tall and thin with wispy buds whereas indicas tend to be short, bushy, and dense. Sativa cultivars tend to have a cerebral, energizing effect whereas indicas create relaxing body highs that are better before bed. Cannabis strains with the words “haze,” “diesel,” or “jack” are typically sativa dominant while “OG” and “kush” are synonymous with indica cultivars.
Generations of cannabis cultivation have led to more nuanced breeding methods meant to develop new and interesting strains. Because of this, the majority of cultivars are some type of hybrid.
Terpenes and Cannabinoids – The Secret Sauce
In order to understand how a strain may affect you, it’s important to examine the terpene and cannabinoid content. Terpenes are the chemical compound in plants responsible for their aroma and flavor. There are thousands of terpenes in the naturally occuring world, but mainstream cannabis strains typically contain a select few. Some of the most common cannabis terpenes are earthy myrcene, dank humulene (also found in hops!), floral linalool, spicy Beta-Caryophyllene, woodsy alpha-pinene, and citrusy limonene.
Cannabinoids are the active ingredients in cannabis most responsible for effects. There are actually hundreds of cannabinoids in existence but so far THC and CBD are the most prevalent. THC is psychoactive, responsible for the “high” cannabis is known for. CBD, mostly found in industrial hemp, does not offer a mind-altering effect and is better known for its slew of potential health benefits. Other “lesser-known” cannabinoids beginning to gain interest include CBG, an anti-inflammatory mood booster, CBN, known for its antibacterial and neuroprotectant abilities, and THC-V, a mildly psychoactive appetite suppressant.
Cannabinoids live inside the trichomes of the cannabis plant, which are the frosty crystals coating the buds and leaves. They work by binding to CB1 and CB2 receptors throughout the nervous system, also known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Discovered in 1992 by Israeli scientist Dr. Lumir Hanus, the ECS is responsible for maintaining homeostasis throughout the body aka keeping the different organs and systems operating in perfect harmony. Protecting and preserving trichomes is extremely important, which is why cannabis consumers should be careful to store their product properly (more about that later!).
The Role of Storage in the Curing Process
The life cycle of the cannabis plant from seed to sale is delicate and nuanced. Every process must be done with the utmost care in order to produce top-quality buds. This is especially true during the curing stage, when the dried plants find their sweet spot prior to sale. Marijuana must be cured in order for it to achieve its signature flavor and smoke-ability.
During the curing process, cannabis buds are placed in airtight containers. The containers are opened for short periods of time every so often, a method also known as “burping.” This prevents mold and mildew as well as over-drying. As time goes on, the containers can be burped less and less. The method of storage is critical to ensuring the bud stays free from pathogens while also retaining terpenes and cannabinoids. Glass jars are a great option since they are both durable and simple to access. Cured cannabis buds can be stored for up to six months to a year, depending on the type of storage being used.
Why Preservation is Important
The plant is obviously at its best after its curing stage but as most of us know, the time between packaging and consumption could be lengthy. This where the role of preservation as it relates to storage comes in. For producers wishing to extend the shelf life of their precious crop to consumers wanting to protect their investment, preserving cannabis is crucial.
What happens if cannabis is improperly stored, you may ask. The first potential issue that could arise is overdrying. This leads to the bud being difficult to manipulate and harsh to smoke. Meanwhile, terpenes and cannabinoids – the active ingredients in the plant – evaporate, making the cannabis less potent.
On the flip side, improperly stored cannabis in more humid climates could be at risk for developing mold. Even microscopic amounts of this substance can spell trouble as it can spread quickly. For producers, entire batches (pounds and pounds) can become unusable in a very short span of time. Smoking moldy cannabis is extremely dangerous, especially for medical patients with compromised immune systems.
Moldy Hash taken by @kandidkush on Instagram
There is one other obvious reason proper preservation methods are crucial: the smell factor. As discussed above, cannabis has a very pungent (some may call it dank) and distinct odor. For many folks, concealing this loud fragrance is critical. Airtight containers made from glass tend to do the best job of preventing aromas from escaping.
What is the Best Way to Store Bud?
The evolution of the cannabis plant has provided plenty of time for trial and error when it comes to proper storage. Bud should be kept out of direct sunlight in a durable glass container with an airtight seal. The ideal oxygen levels are less than 30% while humidity should be between 58%-62%.
With this modern knowledge in mind, development into effective, premium yet affordable storage systems has exploded. Inventions like Canlock are the result of this cutting-edge research. From cure to consumption, this purposely built stash jar will preserve cannabis at any stage. Sleek and smell-proof, Canlock is a universal glass jar containing a built-in vacuum pump lid. Canlock protects trichomes, keeps tasty treats fresh, and ensures dabs are the perfect consistency.
The cannabis plant has a long and storied history going back thousands of years. From ancient Chinese medicine to the recreational dispensaries of today, cannabis has had an interesting journey. It’s important to note that many of the injustices committed on behalf of the “War on Drugs” still reverberate throughout modern society and there’s still work to be done.
We are also only at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to research and development of cannabinoid science. Studies on cannabis remain limited, but as legalization spreads so too will the amount of interest in the plant both medically and socially. The cannabis industry will no doubt evolve and the weed of tomorrow could be unlike anything we have experienced. But no matter what, cannabis packaging will remain an important part of the story as it preserves and protects the plant that so many of us consider a vital component of our daily lives.