Anyone in the business of cannabis knows that it’s a highly regulated industry that requires a deep understanding of local, state, and federal laws. With up to 80% of the advertising landscape unavailable to cannabis brands, marketers need to think out of the proverbial box.
To put these challenges into perspective, here are just a few limitations for cannabis marketing in California alone:
- No national advertising campaigns
- No digital advertising on Google or Facebook
- No advertising on television (broadcast or cable), print, digital, or radio if at least 71.6 percent of the audience is expected to be under the age of 21
- No dispensary advertising or advertising of cannabis products within 1,000 feet (or another specific distance) of a school or area where children often spend time, which often includes television, radio, or print ads that could be seen, heard, or distributed in those areas
- No advertising on public or private vehicles
- No advertising in arenas, stadiums, state fairs, shopping malls, arcades, and farmers markets
Despite its widespread recreational and medical use, the bottom line is that cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, creating complicated hoops for cannabis companies to jump through. Even successful cannabis businesses with their own dispensaries or online stores face daunting state and national marketing regulations.
Regulations to Watch
Using traditional media like television and radio to sell or distribute marijuana is still against federal law, even in many legalized states. The internet tends to play by different rules, but many major social platforms and search engines still don’t allow dispensary advertising.
Facebook’s U.S. advertising policy currently bans ads that promote cannabis sales and requires users to avoid posting images of recreational or medical marijuana and accessories. Recently, Facebook has been under fire for blocking CBD-related ads, though Canadian marketing regulations were relaxed when cannabis was legalized last year.
Instagram takes its stance on marijuana even more seriously by refusing to allow any dispensary advertising even in states and countries where it's legal. And their policy prohibits businesses from providing contact information on their account page. Google also cracks down hard on cannabis advertising, restricting ads for recreational drugs, paraphernalia, and “instructional content.”
Cannabis Marketing Alternatives
The good news is that there are plenty of alternatives outside of traditional and social advertising platforms. According to our research, newspapers and their websites continue to be one of the most trusted sources for cannabis information, and fortunately for cannabis companies, many of them, such as the USA TODAY NETWORK, allow branded content on their platforms. This is a highly effective technique as branded content is all about storytelling, which in an emerging market like cannabis, is key to marketing success. Branded content allows marketers to create valuable content targeted at interested consumers. It’s also the perfect tool to educate an audience about product and company attributes and benefits.
While leveraging branded content at a targeted newspaper and online news sites is a great place to start, other digital marketing techniques such as search engine optimization (SEO) and location marketing cannot be ignored, but you have to know the rules. Using the right guidelines, effective SEO and location marketing strategies ensure that the stories you tell ultimately land users on your website and at your local store.
At LOCALiQ, our in-depth knowledge of cannabis marketing regulations, coupled with our marketing expertise and proprietary technology give canna brands the tools they need to thrive in a controversial industry and truly connect with their audience. To find out more about us and the USA TODAY NETWORK | LOCALiQ cannabis study, email one of our experts, Claire Will, at firstname.lastname@example.org.