When Cannabis Advertising Regulations are Unclear, Entrepreneurs Will Push the Envelope

Dama's billbaord in Lower Queen Anne in Seattle. Photo by GABRIEL SPITZER KPLU

Dama’s billbaord in Lower Queen Anne in Seattle. Photo by GABRIEL SPITZER KPLU

Advertising is an important part of any business’s marketing plan. Where medicinal cannabis is legal, advertising will become more important as markets grow. But how far can a cannabis business owner push the advertising envelope? That depends on his or her comfort level with risk.

Two first steps to take when you’re ready to promote you’re cannabis business:

1) know the advertising regulations/restrictions applicable to where you conduct business and,

2) pay attention to how others promote their marijuana businesses and the response from regulatory entities.

Here are two recent examples of cannabis entrepreneurs pushing the advertising envelope.

20 Officially Licensed Commercial Growers in Canada Get Warning Letters

Recently Health Canada clamped down on medical marijuana advertising. Twenty officially licensed commercial growers in Canada received warning letters telling them to change their advertising or face suspension and even revocation of their licenses. According to an Ottawa lawyer representing medical marijuana companies the rules in Canada have been unclear for months and the clampdown was expected. The restrictions cover promotion on websites and social media including photos of buds, such as the one shown above—and even restrict cannabis companies from telling customers how varying strains can treat different symptoms except for the most basic information.

Washington Grower and Processor Tests Advertising Restrictions

Earlier this year a Washington state-licensed grower and processor Dama Cannabis put up billboards around Seattle and flew a 3,000-foot aerial banner over Centurylink Field during a Seahawks preseason game as well as over three waterfront parks in the city. According to an attorney with Canna Law Group the grower was testing the restriction waters, which prohibit marijuana advertising within 1,000 feet of schools, daycares, and parks. (See Washington State’s advertising requirements on the State’s Liquor Control Board website)

Municipalities May Set Advertising Regulations

Municipalities may also set advertising regulations. For example, Seattle’s Mayor Ed Murray has outlined a proposal setting standards on testing, packaging and advertising for dispensaries for review by the city council in January. Spokane Valley’s City Council recently passed a moratorium on December 9, restricting all marijuana businesses other than retail, production and processing operations already licensed by the state.

No matter where you operate a cannabis business, learn the advertising regulations. You may find they are unclear or non-existent. Such regulations tend to be created and fine-tuned when business owners begin actively promoting their products and services. While the number of states passing laws to legalize medicinal and adult use marijuana is growing, remember the use of marijuana is still an offense under Federal law.

Want to learn more about owning a cannabis business?

Oaksterdam University offers semester classes and 2-4 day seminars to get you started. Topics cover regulations, history and politics, legal rights, horticulture, ingestion methods, science of cannabis, economics of cannabis, patient relations and advocacy, dispensary operations and business management, procurement and allocation, legal business structures, delivery business and topical applications. Learn More.


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