For many cannabis businesses, social media seems like the ideal place to advertise. Facebook provides many tools for advertisers that allow them to focus their audience in a way that would be extraordinarily beneficial for marijuana products and dispensaries. They would be able to narrow down the viewers to only include people in states where cannabis is legal. They would also be able to add age restrictions, ensuring as much as possible that minors would not be exposed to the ads. It’s really a win-win, except for one very annoying catch.
Marijuana businesses are prohibited from advertising on Google or Facebook.
A recent report from Washington Post examined the challenges marijuana businesses face advertising to their customers while pot remains illegal under federal Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. Section 812. The act outlines guidelines by which to classify certain drugs based on how dangerous a risk they pose, whether they have any medical benefits, and if they are addictive. Currently, marijuana is Schedule I, the most restricted classification on the list, despite no evidence it fits any of those qualifiers. That very same act (under Section 843) states “It shall be unlawful for any person to place in any newspaper, magazine, handbill, or other publications, any written advertisement knowing that it has the purpose of seeking or offering illegally to receive, buy, or distribute a Schedule I controlled substance.”
So how are there so many marijuana ads out there?
As our experienced Los Angeles cannabis business attorneys can explain, U.S. Code Title 21, Chapter 13, Section 863 (f1), does offer some wiggle room to advertisers. While the rest of this section describes in detail the illegality of drug paraphernalia and specifically cites that national and local advertising concerning drug use constitutes paraphernalia, it also says there is an exemption for those who “are authorized by local, State, or Federal law to manufacture, possess, or distribute such items.” This has given some leeway for advertising platforms whose reach is limited to within a state where marijuana use is legal. However, national media is still nervous about getting slapped by federal authorities.
Sometimes, according to the Post article, these outlets can be overly cautious, with some users reporting Facebook will even limit activity that does not explicitly talk about marijuana, such as an event where lobbyists were set to speak to politicians about legalization. This type of community building is the foundation of Facebook, and currently cannabis advocates are extremely limited in how they can take advantage of this resource.
Our trusted lawyers understand how important advertising is to a budding business venture. That’s why we include marketing strategy as part of our business consulting services. Our contacts within the marijuana business community have helped us to maximize operations and positively impact rate of return for clients. Our services include assisting with marketing ideas and advising on web design and strategy. In combination with our team’s public relations experience, training and education programs, compliance oversight, licensing assistance, and business plan building, an effective marketing plan can be the ticket to helping your cannabis business stand out among the many others in Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients, defendants, workers and those facing criminal marijuana charges. Call us at 949-375-4734.
The Legally Hazy World of Cannabis Marketing, March 23, 2017, By Erin Nelson, Contently
More Blog Entries:
Legal Concerns in California Cannabis Advertising, Sept. 21, 2017, Cannabis Law Group