Regulations surrounding the advertisement of your cannabis business and products are as complicated and varied as the cannabis laws themselves. You cannot simply set up a website and build your brand around all the great benefits of your products, rather, you must follow guidelines that will restrict how you talk about your products. Furthermore, advertising for cannabis is also restricted in order to protect children. Below are the essential tips to help a graphic designer meet cannabis advertising regulations.
I feel like marijuana is a universal language for all people.
– Snoop Dogg: American rapper, media personality, entrepreneur, and actor
Health and Wellness Benefits
Although cannabis has been seen as a natural remedy for a number of ailments, including anxiety and depression, sleep disorders, physical aches and pains, and general inflammation, the fact remains that these claims have not been fully tested by the FDA. As a result, businesses cannot make these claims in their advertising, nor can they claim that the products are safe to use.
Understand that these regulations can be tricky, in that you cannot directly say that your cannabis product will help someone suffering from a sleep disorder to get a good night’s sleep. A clever copywriter, however, can certainly imply this benefit without making any promises. Always consult your local laws before publishing any such language in order to protect your business.
Children and Underage Usage
One of the biggest advertising concerns that cannabis businesses will face is keeping their products out of the hands of underage users. Historically, cigarette and alcohol manufacturers purposely made their ads, commercials, and even their packaging appealing to children in order to gain a larger customer base. Having learned from the damage that was caused by these efforts, the US government has imposed very strict guidelines against these practices for the alcohol and tobacco industries, and cannabis is now part of those efforts.
Cannabis businesses must make their labels plain with few, if any, colors, and certainly no cartoon mascots. This is especially important for edible manufacturers, as their popular gummy bear and other candy products will be particularly scrutinized because they are immediately appealing to children.
The muted packaging style should be replicated on your website, social posts, and any print advertising. In addition, you will need to thoroughly understand your target audience in every advertising medium. Like the alcohol industry, cannabis businesses are not allowed to advertise in areas where more than 30% of the readership is under 21. Also ensure you include a pop up that forces visitors to enter their birthdays before entering your site. For paid Google ads and social media posts, always restrict your age requirements.
Additional Advertising Law Considerations
Speaking of local laws, remember that cannabis is not legal in the US on the federal level. This means, first and foremost, that national advertising is prohibited. Like the cannabis laws themselves, advertising regulations are therefore governed by individual states, so the laws can vary greatly. But a good rule of thumb is to ensure your business is only being advertised within your individual state. Many also require you to list possible side effects.
Lastly, because the industry is growing so quickly, some states have not yet determined exact advertising guidelines. But do not get too excited if you are in one of these states, because that will change as most are adapting similar laws that govern alcohol and tobacco. Should you decide to break some of the rules stated above, or even go so far as to put up billboards or other large-scale ads, expect that there will be backlash that could lead to a court case against you. The risks of not following these cannabis advertising regulations may not be worth the immediate benefits.