Cannabis marketing regulations are multi-tiered and constantly in flux. While an array of cities and states have legalized and decriminalized various forms of cannabis, the substance is still illegal at the federal level. At the same time, social media platforms like Facebook, audio platforms like Spotify, and search platforms like Google each have different policies for how marketers can promote cannabis products. And on top of all that, cannabis marketers must comply with a growing matrix of consumer privacy regulations. The result? An ever-shifting regulatory landscape that requires a considerable amount of up-front research compared to other consumer packaged goods.
While navigating these various regulations might feel like reefer madness, marketers can minimize overwhelm by approaching them in four tiers: Federal, state, platform-specific, and from a general advertising compliance standpoint. Read on for an overview of each layer:
At the federal level, cannabis marketing is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), and the National Advertising Division (NAD). There are two big rules that brands must follow here. First, to comply with the FTC’s Truth in Advertising laws, product descriptions must be backed by legitimate research and must not mislead consumers.
Second, brands may not make any claims that a cannabis product can cure, prevent, diagnose, or treat a serious disease. Brands may, however, make what the FDA calls a structure/function claim. A structure/ function claim:
For example, a brand could not legally state that a CBD product cures insomnia, but it could legally state that a CBD product promotes sleep.
On the state level, State Departments of Health set regulations for cannabis advertising. These regulations vary widely—for example, cannabis marketing is generally prohibited in Delaware, while cannabis marketers in Colorado can advertise across a variety of channels, granted those advertisements adhere to certain restrictions. While there are some general State-level cannabis marketing rules that hold true across the board, it’s critical to research marketing regulations in each state where you plan to advertise. While you’re at it, make sure to look into cannabis advertising restrictions based on city and county jurisdictions as well!
Marketers must also research cannabis marketing guidelines for each platform where they plan to place ads, as they all vary. For example:
With accessible and affordable advertising options like Facebook, Instagram, and Google largely off the table, marketers will need to tap into tools designed to clear this regulation barrier. Basis, for example, is integrated with Cannavu, which operates the largest ad marketplace for curated, compliant cannabis advertising opportunities. Cannavu accesses ad impressions on canna-compliant publishers, automating the publisher selection process for marketers.
Beyond ensuring that campaigns meet the requirements of federal, state, local, and platform-specific regulations, cannabis marketers must also be aware of the broader shift towards privacy-friendly advertising. This includes preparing for the impending deprecation of third-party cookies, updating marketing strategies to meet the growing consumer demand for data privacy, and ensuring compliance with privacy regulations such as GDPR, CCPA, and CPRA.
The movement towards privacy-first marketing means that marketing teams must be particularly diligent about compliance when acquiring and activating cannabis customer data, and that they must vet all their partners and vendors to ensure that they display the same level of attention to privacy. At the same time, as more and more privacy-focused regulations pop up across the country, cannabis brands must continually monitor these regulatory developments to in order to avoid costly fines.
There you have it: By approaching cannabis marketing regulations at the federal, state, local, and platform levels, and by meeting the requirements of the overall advertising industry’s regulations, marketers are sure to cover all their regulatory bases.
Interested in learning more about the cannabis marketing landscape? Check out Cannabis Marketing in the Roaring 2020’s to learn about who is buying cannabis, how to market to them, and what sets a cannabis campaign up for success.