Cannabis sales are booming in the face of intense marketing relations. Experts are estimating the total economic impact of the industry in the United States will be roughly $80 billion by the end of 2022. This is equivalent to the total GDP of Hawaii.
As more companies are created within the cannabis industry, more advertising will take place in an effort to cut through the noise of fellow competitors. However, the existing hurdle for advertisers is that marijuana remains illegal for recreational use in a large majority of states, and entirely at the federal level.
Even in states where cannabis is legal for consumption, tight regulation follows the green-leafed plant. So how can you effectively market?
Here’s what you need to know about current cannabis marketing regulations…
Regulations for Traditional Marketing
Even though cannabis consumption is now legal in over 10 states, consistent regulations do not exist from state to state. This means that from Colorado to California to Maine, the flexibility and rules can vary to great lengths.
For example in the state of Washington, billboards have to fall into these guidelines:
Licensed retail outlets may use a billboard solely for the purpose of identifying the name of the business, the nature of the business, and providing the public with directional information to the licensed retail outlet.
- Billboards are limited to the same restrictions as outdoor signs (listed above):
- Billboards must contain text stating that marijuana products may be purchased or possessed only by persons 21 years of age or older.
- Billboards cannot contain depictions of plants or products (ex: leaf = plant, joint = product), or use movie or cartoon characters, or any other depiction that might be appealing to children.
Then in Nevada, outside advertising needs to submit to these rules:
A marijuana establishment:
- a. Shall not engage in advertising which contains any statement or illustration:
- Is false or misleading;
- Promotes overconsumption of marijuana or marijuana products;
- Depicts actual consumption of marijuana or marijuana products;
- Depicts a child or other person who is less than 21 years of age consuming marijuana or marijuana products or objects suggesting the presence of a child, including, without limitation, toys, characters or cartoons, or contains any other depiction which is designed in any way to be appealing to or encourage consumption of marijuana or marijuana products by a person who is less than 21 years of age.
- b. Shall not advertise in any publication or on radio, television, or any other medium if 30 percent or more of the audience of that medium is reasonably expected to be persons who are less than 21 years of age.
- c. Shall not place an advertisement:
- Within 1,000 feet of a public or private school, playground, public park or library, but may maintain such an advertisement if it was initially placed before the school, playground, public park or library was located within 1,000 feet of the location of the advertisement
Got it? Yeah, the regulations can definitely be a headache to tackle. Basically, a good rule of thumb for traditional advertising methods like television, radio, print, etc. is that if 70 percent of the likely viewership isn’t over 21-years-old, then don’t even think about it. Additionally, product depiction and consumption are not allowed.
If you are wanting to advertise through a traditional advertising medium it’s best to check with your state government about the do’s and dont’s. In the meantime, here is a brief overview of what your state’s regulations are (this list only includes states where medical or recreational marijuana is legal).
Regulations for Digital Marketing
Marketing is neck-deep in the digital world. While ad spend in traditional marketing mediums remains strong, with over $114 billion spent in 2018, the digital space is where a large portion of businesses are starting to dedicate their budget. By the end of 2021, ad spend for online advertising is expected to reach over $170 billion per year.
Google and Facebook are the biggest ad vacuums within the industry, soaking up nearly 60 percent of all invested money. However, these two advertising behemoths largely avoid the blossoming cannabis industry, due to federal policy categorizing marijuana as a Schedule I drug, which is illegal for use.
Even as more states begin to pass legislation for recreational cannabis consumption, Google and Facebook remain loyal to federal regulations on what substances are legal for consumer use. Both platforms outline in their policy terms that the advertising of illegal drugs is prohibited, and will not be approved for promotion. It is clear that ads that contain words such as: cannabis, marijuana, CBD, weed, pipes, bongs, etc. will not be accepted by either platform.
(Facebook guidelines outlaw the promotion or sale of cannabis.)
However, cannabis companies do have workarounds to the tight guidelines within the digital atmosphere. The advertisement of your company is possible if these trigger words are avoided, in conjunction with no image depiction or reference to cannabis. However, even this can sometimes be difficult, as the AI of both Google and Facebook often rule out ads that improperly imply drug promotion.
It may seem like what Google and Facebook deem okay for marketing, not a black and white subject matter, and that’s a fair statement. A good rule of thumb is to avoid trigger words, image depiction of cannabis or cannabis-related activity, and instructional content regarding producing, purchasing, and usage of cannabis.
Need Help Figuring Out Cannabis Advertising?
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!