California marijuana marketing 101: Hire an experienced Los Angeles marijuana business attorney. Yes, you can hire a marketing firm to send out your email blasts or pour some time into cultivating an Instagram following or hire a firm to write some blogs and boost your SEO. However, cannabis shops and distributors shouldn’t drop a dime – or their time – on these things until they have spoken with a California marijuana business lawyer. Yes, you want to be informative, educate, entertain, build brand loyalty and a community of customers – and yes, ultimately move your product. But if you aren’t careful about reading the fine print, you could see your money and resource investment go up in smoke.
Just like tobacco and alcohol, the cannabis industry has a number of restrictions about how it can be advertised and marketed. Running afoul of this can be expensive, potentially embarrassing and could cost you business. There are state advertising laws that must be considered, with some regulations specific to the cannabis industry. On top of that, you have to consider the platform. Popular social media apps like Instagram and Facebook have specific terms of service use that don’t allow advertising of “criminal activity” – and marijuana is still a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law.
California cannabis shop owners and dispensary operators have been dealing with this sort of thing for some time now, but in Maryland, they’re just starting to face down some of these challenges. The Washington Post recently detailed the struggles of a fledgling marijuana dispensary owner who started with a dream and a little cash and a bit of social media savvy. Marketing on Instagram would be a great way to reach her target audience. She went for it – and it was wildly successful. Customers followed for the latest “Waxy Wednesday” promotion or educational captions on interesting photos, such as the “Featured Flower” she posted regularly. And then – all of it was deleted. Instagram abruptly announced the account violated its complex terms of service. Hundreds of hours of work were lost – and the marijuana business owner suddenly had no way to reach the following she’d worked so hard to build.
Laws on Mass Marijuana Marketing
Let’s start at the federal level. First, there is the possible risk of prosecution for marijuana advertising under the Controlled Substances Act. 21 U.S.C. section 843(c) bans placement of written advertisements for marijuana and other controlled substances in any newspaper, magazine, handbill or other publication knowing it is done with the purpose of seeking or offering unlawfully to receive, purchase or distribute marijuana. … Soooo… Does that mean you can’t advertise? Not exactly. The measure is seldom-enforced, but it does mean that you’ll need to proceed with appropriate caution. Continue reading