Using advertising and marketing initiatives to attract and engage consumers is crucial for any new business, but especially in a fledgling consumer product industry emerging from nearly a century of prohibition and stigma. Due to cannabis’ status as a Federal Schedule I substance existing under multiple state-led regulatory frameworks, cannabis business owners are forced to be creative when it comes to promoting their brands. In this blog post, we take a quick look at how advertising rules are shaping up in the Northeast.
Emerging legal markets understand out of the gate that because cannabis is federally illegal, national advertising is prohibited(1). As a result, jurisdictions are taking their cues from more established markets as a starting point for setting advertising guidelines.
In Massachusetts, regulations stipulate that advertisers are prohibited from making false, misleading, or untrue claims. Cannabis brands cannot use language that refers to their products as being “safe,” having “therapeutic effects” or other claims referencing traits like quality or performance, unless there is substantial scientific evidence or clinical data to support such claims.
As with other legal markets, Massachusetts regulators’ greatest concerns center around ensuring cannabis products don’t appeal to children. Companies are not allowed to have cannabis words or imagery in their logos, and advertisers are not only restricted from depicting anyone under the age of 21 in their advertising, but they must also refrain from using mascots, cartoons, celebrities or other elements that could appeal to those underage. Cannabis advertising may not be displayed in the interior or exterior in bars, restaurants, or any business in which cannabis products aren’t for sale. In TV, radio, billboard, print, events, and other outlets that will allow cannabis advertising, it must be deemed that at least 85% of the audience is expected to be at least 21 years of age, and such ads are required to include multiple warning statements, including one detailing health risks.
The disconnect between legal states and federal law also impacts brands’ ability to market online, with Google Adwords and other platforms also restricting cannabis advertising even in jurisdictions where cannabis is legal. While the cannabis industry has taken to social media giant Instagram as a way to build brand awareness through imagery, influencers, and education, the platform does not allow companies to advertise or sell cannabis. And because the rules of enforcement aren’t always clear, cannabis companies that choose to promote via Instagram are in constant danger of losing their followings.
Join us for the educational session “The State of Cannabis Advertising” during the National Cannabis Industry Association’s Northeast Cannabis Business Conference. Formerly Seed to Sale Show, #NECannaBizCon invites you to get the latest regional insights, explore emerging business opportunities, and broaden your East Coast network at the industry’s only true B2B cannabis expo focusing on the Northeast market. Meet with NCIA members, entrepreneurs, policymakers, industry leaders, and services providers on 40,000 square feet of expo floor. It’s all happening February 19-20, 2020 at Boston’s Hynes Convention Center – Registration is now open!