Stone Road's Commitment To Inclusion And Sustainability Extends Beyond Branding
by Rudy Sanchez on 06/28/2021 | 5 Minute Read
Thanks in part to decades of stigmatization, cannabis has long been associated with the counterculture and fringes of mainstream society. Many misfits, artists, thinkers, miscreants, and the otherwise too-hip-to-be square have found a connection to the green herb, forming a symbiotic relationship with those individuals shaping cannabis subculture. Weed brings people together, especially those who don’t quite fit in with the mainstream.
Now, as legal markets open up for cannabis and cannabis-derived products, it’s little wonder that some members of the LGBTQ+ community would start ventures in the industry with branding that reflected and celebrated their culture and identity. In some ways, legal cannabis provides an opportunity in a more tolerant and accepting industry than in more traditional and established business environments.
Stone Road is a queer-led and founded brand that focuses on producing sustainable and inclusive cannabis. Through the cannabis company, founder and CEO Lex Corwin wanted to create beautiful, eye-catching products at affordable prices. He also wanted to operate as sustainably as possible. With the assistance of the talented folks at creative studio Art Camp, Stone Road shines and struts visually with a dynamic identity that manages to stand out even in a cannabis crowd that continues to grow at a rapid pace.
“On the surface, both groups [cannabis industry and LGBTQ+ community] have had to have their ‘coming out;’ for people in the cannabis industry, they’ve become more and more accepted over time. And that's mirrored in America in relation to gay rights and gay marriage. Both cannabis and gay rights have been going hand-in-hand just in terms of political and social acceptance,” Corwin said.
It’s not just the similar trajectory that cannabis and the LGBTQ+ communities share in common. Lex, himself queer, believes that the plant’s therapeutic and inspirational properties attract members of the latter more than the heteronormative crowd.
“In terms of actual usage, I would say queer people definitely use cannabis to a higher degree. Overall, they tend to be kind of a more creative subset, a lot of people who are creative use cannabis to basically tap into different parts of their mind and take on new perspectives,” Lex said. “A lot of people who grew up here in America have some type of trauma, whether they know it or not, [from] looking at imagery of straight people basically forever on all media and not being able to identify with that obviously leads to some issues, and I feel like a lot of queer people use cannabis to help with, anxiety and depression.”
Corwin’s Stone Road doesn't focus on wellness or functional marketing, like many other new brands. Instead, the cannabis brand looks to nature, a clear reflection of their commitment to growing on a farm in Northern California. Additionally, representation and inclusion feature prominently in lifestyle and social media photography.
“For the packaging, the goals were to create something beautiful and accessible that would be immediately recognizable on shelves as Stone Road,” says Santiago Carrasquilla, Art Camp director. “All of the packaging we've designed since we started working with Lex features a different photograph from the Stone Road farm in Nevada City, so it's always tied back to the heritage of the brand.
Stone Road’s packaging features a minimal outer appearance with a stark white background emblazoned with the brand’s ribbon logo. Sliding open the preroll pack or flipping open the Roll Your Own pouch reveals vibrant depictions of nature, with fields of blooming flowers. The jars of bud keep the same theme, but the actual cannabis stands in for flower fields. "The idea there," Carrasquilla says, "was to have an outer package that was super minimalistic and then a surprise upon opening it—nature!"
But, according to Lex, it's not all farm life or bikini girls doing dabs in front of a pool that's getting showcased in the branding. "We’re showing normal, cool, maybe unconventionally beautiful people who consume our product. It's a more winning approach because we're showing people that maybe they reached out on Instagram, or maybe we found them. Ultimately, they are a cannabis consumer, and they're a reflection of the people that make up the industry that gets the least amount of light shone on them.” This inclusive approach extends beyond Stone Road’s packaging and social media, as evidenced by their recently launched website.
Stone Road also needed to reconfigure its website as well. They wanted something interactive and unforgettable, one that would express the natural beauty of the brand. "Ultimately, we wanted the new site to be minimal, simple, and extremely functional so it could get easily tied to the packaging and design work we've done for Stone Road since the brand's launch in 2016,” Carrasquilla said.
Some of nature’s cuter elements like bunnies and butterflies frolic in the same cyberspace as Stone Road’s 3D-designed ribbon wordmark. There’s a warm and heady vibe to the execution, and glimpses of the sophisticated technical underpinnings can get seen throughout the website.
Stone Road’s connection to nature comes from the same spirit of inclusivity. The farm itself, while 95% untamed, provides all the water from an artesian well on-site while the plants themselves are grown in soil using natural insecticides. That love of the earth extends to the packaging as well, which is made entirely from post-consumer recycled material and is 96% recyclable. By year’s end, Stone Road also hopes to replace the cellophane around the pre-roll packaging with a naturally derived alternative that dissolves in water.
“In terms of sustainability, the eco-friendly options cost more, but if your company really cares about the environment and making things sustainable, it's not that much more expensive,” Lex says. “If we're talking about a $20 SKU, the difference is probably an incremental 30 cents, while our packaging is probably 50 cents. Proportionally, it's a large increase, but if you take a step back and look, it's not affecting your margin in a meaningful enough way that we would not make the change.”
It’s easy to get lost in all the loud noise of cannabis brands doing big shows of solidarity during Pride month, but many still fail to recruit and hire LGBTQ+ talent. Similarly, brands can tell you they care about the environment, but they don’t invest in developing more sustainable packaging. Corwin sees the cannabis industry as an opportunity to operate in ways most reflective of his beliefs of inclusion and sustainability. For Stone Road, principles aren’t expensive; they’re priceless.