Apr 20 2023
Clare McKinley

5 Considerations for Cannabis Advertising


Cannabis advertising can be tricky. The drug is still prohibited on a federal level, which makes crafting a holistic, nationwide advertising strategy particularly difficult. To make matters even trickier, each state, marketing channel, and publisher carries its own set of ad regulations for cannabis marketers to navigate.

At the same time, the cannabis market is growing like a weed (sorry—we couldn’t resist!) The US cannabis market size is expected to reach $40 billion by 2030, showing a forecasted compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.2% from 2023 to 2030.

Many cannabis brands tend to lean on organic marketing methods like social media and SEO to attract their audience. While organic messaging is an important part of any marketing mix, paid media is just as critical. Here are our top five considerations for effective cannabis advertising that any cannabis brand can use to help build their paid advertising strategy:

1. Stay Up to Date on Local Cannabis Marketing Regulations

This one is fairly critical: Spend time researching and following the cannabis marketing-related laws that exist in the markets where you want to advertise. While each state carries its own set of regulations, there are a few rules that hold true across the board. General guidelines to consider include:

  1. Ads must not suggest that CBD or cannabis can treat or cure any health or medical condition.
  2. Ads must not contain elements that would appeal to children.
  3. There should be no testimonials or endorsements of the products featured within the ads.
  4. Media cannot show the consumption of any cannabis product(s).
  5. There must be a "For Adult Use" label on any infused products.
  6. Ads cannot make any false or misleading statements.
  7. The ads cannot include any pricing, promotions, or potency statements.

2. Understand Which Marketing Channels Work Best for Cannabis

Like state cannabis marketing regulations, each marketing channel (and each publisher and vendor within that channel) has its own approach to cannabis. For example, in the world of paid social, Twitter recently became the first social platform to allow cannabis ads in those states where it’s legal.

While the Federal Communications Commission does not allow cannabis advertisements to be aired on linear TV or radio, advertisers can run their ads via connected TV or digital audio. With either mainstream programmatic exchanges or cannabis-specific programmatic exchanges, these channels allow advertisers to target compliant audiences with their ads.

3. Focus Your Creative on CBD, Not Traditional Cannabis

CBD, or cannabidiol, is the non-psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. Because of this, CBD has less restrictions federally. Creating ads that are focused only on your CBD products can help you drive traffic to your site without having to worry about some of the restrictions that come with traditional cannabis advertising.

4. Consider Programmatic Advertising

Programmatic advertising can help bridge the gap between cannabis-focused publications and more mainstream publications. Many brands choose to run ads in publications centered around cannabis, such as High Times or Cannabis Culture, but those publications only represent one subset of cannabis consumers. Programmatic targeting can help ensure your advertisements are compliant with local regulations, while effectively locating cannabis consumers across the web.

5. Sell Your Brand, Not Your Product

In the current climate for cannabis dispensary marketing, there are thousands of brands competing for the same consumers. While location typically whittles down a lot of the competition, it is important for cannabis brands to focus on what sets their brand apart and makes them unique.

One idea: Test out content that focuses on your company’s culture or values, with no mention of cannabis or cannabis products. Native advertising (such as sponsored content) can be an effective avenue for this strategy, which can also help you steer clear of local regulations.

Wrapping Up: Advertising Tips for Cannabis Brands

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to cannabis advertising, these five considerations will be highly useful for cannabis brands looking to maximize their paid digital media strategies.

Looking to learn even more about cannabis advertising—from opportune consumer personas to campaign best practices? Check out our guide, Cannabis Marketing in the Roaring 2020s, for a deep dive.

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