Marijuana Hitting Mainstream Magazine Covers


Scanning the magazine rack at the grocery store, you’ll typically see images of celebrities, politicians and fad diets. Refine your awareness and you’ll notice marijuana imagery has been added into the rotation of mainstream magazine covers.

Unexpected visual imagery is a way for print magazines to grab attention, communicate the story between the covers and sell issues. Even though such magazines are suffering from decreased circulation, paid subscriptions and single-copy sales, they still have the best retail real estate for print publications.

Since you aren’t likely to find High Times and Cannabis Culture in the front rack at your local grocery store, some mainstream magazines have taken advantage of marijuana’s image to capture the attention of potential readers. This gives them the opportunity to stand out amongst stale covers, gain new readers, and most importantly, join the conversation on marijuana legalization.

While it is likely a positive sign that marijuana is appearing on the cover of mainstream magazines, it is up to readers to determine which publications are exploiting marijuana’s image for sales and which are adding credibility to the conversation.

Here are three recent mainstream magazine covers that were designed to entice onlookers with marijuana-related images. The quality of the content beneath the surface may be debatable, but it is clear that marijuana is hitting the mainstream. Ultimately, this should lead the inquisitive to learn more about the industry, whether as a hobbyist, activist, entrepreneur or investor.


Newsweek Special Issue - Weed Nation

Newsweek Special Issue – Weed Nation: Feb/March 2015


Starting in February of 2015, Newsweek released Weed Nation, a special edition on marijuana legalization in America. The cover design is hard to miss—the red, white and blue leaf pops off of the white background, topped by bold black letters. Even without reading the text, the imagery clearly communicates the issue’s topic. The design is compelling enough to elicit an impulse buy, purchasers likely overlooking the cover’s listed retail price of $10.99. The issue’s content, ranging from history, science, policy and potency, is comprehensive enough for beginner’s to justify the cost, but not for those already well versed in the industry. Regardless, Newsweek’s global circulation of more than 100,000 copies will likely ensure marijuana stays in mainstream conversations.



Philadelphia: December 2014

Philadelphia: December 2014


An overflowing nug jar appeared on the cover of Philadelphia’s December 2014 issue. For a city that has decriminalized marijuana in a state that hasn’t legalized it, Philadelphia’s cover likely made legalization hopefuls salivate. Perhaps appealing to the opposition, the nug jar is labeled with the sentence, “Pot is coming.” This wording has a slightly ominous tone to it, but the overall cover design appears to promote curiosity, not impending doom. The issue addressed legalization efforts in Philadelphia, the black market and marijuana etiquette. The issue’s timing likely acted as a strategic primer for Pennsylvanians, as the state legislature is currently considering a medical marijuana bill. With Philadelphia being the largest city in Pennsylvania, this magazine cover seized an opportunity to share marijuana with its metropolis.



AdWeek July 28 - August 10, 2014.

Adweek: July 28 – August 10, 2014


For its Vol. LV No. 28 issue released on July 28, 2014, Adweek featured Cheryl Shuman, CEO and Founder of the Beverly Hills Cannabis Club, on its cover with the headline, “The First Pot Marketer.” The photo’s selective focus brings Shuman’s face to the forefront, while the background colors prevent the image from overpowering the cover. The photo captures what some deem as the definition of American beauty: blonde hair, flawless makeup and manicured nails accented by jewelry. Each word of the headline is strategically placed to force your eyes to travel the length of the cover. The issue only featured one long-form article on marijuana, but with more than 45,000 copies circulated to the public, the cover certainly put marijuana in the spotlight.

Caroline Cahill was the Managing Editor of MJINews from June 2014 through February 2018. She earned her BA in Communications from College of Charleston and her MFA in Creative Writing from Virginia Commonwealth University. You can follow her on Twitter @CtheresaC.

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