, located in Boston’s Allston-Brighton Neighborhood, has come up with an innovative way to meet some of Massachusetts’ Social Equity Program requirements. In May 2020, Mayflower Medicinals, which is based in Maryland and operates a cannabis cultivation facility in Holliston, launched its Mayflower Artist Spotlight Series (M.A.S.S.) as part of its broader Positive Impact Plan. ayflower Medicinals
The Social Equity Program was developed in 2018 to encourage people from communities disproportionately harmed by the biased enforcement of marijuana prohibition laws to participate in Massachusetts’ legal marijuana industry. As part of M.A.S.S., Mayflower employs young artists living in Massachusetts cities and towns that fall under the state’s Social Equity Program guidelines. The program also includes a community garden initiative, plus a fellowship that offers participants job training in the cannabis industry.
For three months at a time, each participating artist creates limited-edition packaging designs for the company’s cannabis products. The artists are paid for their work and are also featured on bio cards displayed at the dispensary as well as featured on Mayflower’s website and social media feeds. Bio cards given out to customers who buy products with the artists’ custom labels include a professional headshot of each artist along with a brief description of their background, influences, and work.
For every product with a limited-edition label sold, Mayflower donates $1 to Unbound Visual Arts, a Boston nonprofit that works to support local artists by hosting exhibitions and through educational programs.“The idea [for M.A.S.S.] came from our director of wholesale,” says Lisa Schaefer, Mayflower’s director of marketing. “It provides an opportunity for young artists who come from affected areas, or whose families have been affected by drug laws, to have their work featured on some of our best-selling products.”
To date, four artists have participated in M.A.S.S. The first was multimedia artist Camille Marie Rodriguez, a 2020 graduate of Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston resident, and the daughter of Dominican immigrants. One of Rodriguez’s designs was for a label featured on Mayflower’s Mini Nugs, a product that includes two of the company’s most popular medical cannabis strains.
Each artist chosen to participate in M.A.S.S. has the opportunity to create three different product label designs, one for each month. “It’s been a great way to help young people just entering the workforce,” Schaefer says. She also points out that having a new design every month has been a good way to develop more customer interest in the products with those labels.
M.A.S.S. artists are given guidelines and templates for their designs and work with Mayflower’s graphic design team to ensure their work is compatible with Massachusetts’ cannabis packaging requirements. Once the designs are finalized, Mayflower prints the custom product labels in house.
Although the artists need to work within certain parameters, Schaefer says they are given a lot of creative freedom and are encouraged to make their illustrations personal. For example, another one of Rodriguez’s designs, for a strain of sativa cannabis called Ghost Train Haze, features an image of a mountain landscape in her parents’ native Dominican Republic.
Other artists who have participated in M.A.S.S. include Somerville illustrator and graphic designer Lauren Madigan, also a Massachusetts College of Art and Design graduate. Her designs include a gray-scale illustration of a dark forest used to illustrate the label of a hybrid cannabis strain called Night Terror, and a dreamy graphic of dripping cream on the label for Mayflower’s Double Cream cannabis hybrid.
Boston resident Stuti Goyal, also an illustrator and a 2020 graduate of Massachusetts College of Art and Design, participated in M.A.S.S. this past winter and spring. A native of India, Goyal created rhythmic abstract designs for Mayflower’s White Knuckles, Acid Dough, and Tutankhamon cannabis strains.
Mayflower’s current M.A.S.S. participant, Elias Diestler, is a trans digital artist with a background in computer programming, web design, and video game development. A resident of Boston, Diestler graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a degree in computational media. He currently works as a content designer for the Framingham-based Bose Corporation.
At the time we interviewed him for this article, Diestler had created two label designs for Mayflower. The first, for an indica cannabis strain called Star Killer, features a space-themed illustration. Diestler says the digital image, which represents the explosion of a neutron star—a literal “star killer”—was inspired by the product’s name, as well as his passion for science fiction. Diestler’s second label illustration, a cheerful blue and yellow digital work he created for Mayflower’s Pineapple Upside Down Cake sativa cannabis strain, was released in May 2021.
Because the M.A.S.S. program is still new, Schaefer says that Mayflower has been experimenting with various approaches to increase its customers’ interest in the products with custom labels. “We are constantly trying to optimize the program,” she says. “We started by trying [the labels] out on our best-selling products and are now trying them on new products we don’t normally sell. That way, not only the packaging is different, the product is different.”
Schaefer says she would love to see Mayflower’s customers want to try products because of their limited-edition labels. The company is looking at additional ways that artwork created by M.A.S.S. participants can be used.
Mayflower has recently opened a recreational-use dispensary in Worcester, and has plans to open others in Fall River and Lowell. Currently the company only runs the M.A.S.S. program at its Boston location. Schaefer says there’s a possibility that the company will expand the program to other locations in the future.
Artists interested in participating in M.A.S.S. can fill out an application on Mayflower’s website: mayflowermedicinals.com