Cannabis Advertising Laws By State 

As of posting this article, 11 states and the District of Columbia have fully legalized cannabis for recreational use, and 33 states plus D.C. have legalized the drug for medical use. As we enter this new decade, pressure is continuing to mount on both state and federal lawmakers to legalize cannabis for everyday use. As public perception and laws begin to loosen, more question marks surround the do’s and don’ts of cannabis advertising. 


When Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize cannabis use, alcohol advertising laws were used as a benchmark when laying out these new regulations. However, in the 11 states where cannabis is fully legal, the state laws still vary widely — making it difficult for companies that do business across state lines. Yet, the elephant looming in the room is digital advertising. 


Platforms like Google and Facebook have strict advertising regulations surrounding drug promotion, even in states where cannabis has been legalized. This classification stems from federal law, where cannabis remains under Schedule I designation, which is defined as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Heroin and LSD are other drugs receiving Schedule I classification. Until federal law legalizes cannabis nationwide, platforms like Google and Facebook are unlikely to change their paid advertising policy surrounding the drug. Therefore, with traditional paid digital ads being outlawed, companies looking to advertise their product or service are forced to explore other marketing methods. 

Online Advertising Possibilities 

Even though traditional display and PPC ad campaigns are out of the question on the Google and Facebook platforms, other options still exist. Organic marketing has proven to be a successful avenue for cannabis-related companies, for both SEO and social media efforts. Due to the paid restrictions, organic marketing is largely responsible for the growth of most cannabis companies. This grassroots tactic is largely helped by the consumer buzz surrounding the industry — from growing technology to cultivation farming to dispensaries, every part of the cannabis lifecycle has generated a lot of public interest. 


But let’s say you’re determined to use your marketing budget on paid ads, there’s got to be some workaround, right? Yes, there actually is. Programmatic advertising is a bit of a buzzword in itself, lighting up marketers with its forecasted ROI and potential use. Here’s the barebones explanation for how it works…. You create ads and set a specific budget for how much you’re willing to spend for that ad to be placed. When an ad space becomes available to a relevant target audience member, a website notifies of the opening. Then bids for the ad space are placed within milliseconds, with the top bid being awarded the space — displaying the ad to the webpage visitor. 


So how is it legal? Glad you asked. These ads are only placed on privately owned websites that are understanding and willing to display cannabis-related content to their viewership. In addition, you are only paying for ads that are placed to your desired target audience, theoretically increasing your ROI. 

Advertising Laws: State by State 

As hinted at in the introduction, cannabis advertising laws display a large range of variability across state lines. Include the newness of cannabis advertising, and the strict penalties associated with improper marketing — leave little room for error. Therefore, the best way to get a sense of advertising within your state is to check with your state government’s resources. 


It is also important to note that these state laws center around traditional marketing means such as television, newspaper, radio, and billboard ads. So if you are only interested in digital advertising, you can skip the worry associated with these convoluted regulations. BUT if you are trying to increase brand awareness and/or bring in foot traffic to your local location, we’ve compiled the right resources for you to look over. Listed below are the state laws for the 11 states where recreational cannabis is legal. 























Need Help Navigating Cannabis Advertising Laws? 

Elevato Marketing is a full-service digital agency specializing in cannabis advertising. With a team of experienced professionals, we are ready to help connect your products with the right clients. Contact us to see how together we can benefit your business!