Creating compliant advertising campaigns for your state or province legal cannabis industry business can be a tricky situation. 

We can’t stress the importance of maintaining compliant advertising campaigns enough, really, and we do understand that in some venues, regulations and rules are still a moving target – making what’s allowed today suddenly unacceptable in three weeks.  

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How do you combat the ever changing regulations and rules, while still effectively advertising and marketing your brand, your locations or your product?  We’re going to take a look at some of the rules and regulations in place in a variety of locations in this article, and break down what we feel to be ways to produce and deploy compliant advertising campaigns for those areas.  

Keep in mind that we aren’t lawyers, this is not meant to be legal advice.  Further, these rules and regulations could change tomorrow and our suggestions will no longer create compliant advertising campaigns.  

1. Canada

Yes, an entire country is the first venue on our list and we are only addressing the federal regulations; it’s entirely possible (and very likely) that by the time adult use legalization rolls around this summer, these rules will have been changed and provinces will have added to them.  So be aware and keep your ear to the ground for updates. 

A recent Cannabist article talked a bit about the Canadian legislation on the table – 

  • Labels may have to display graphic health warnings, adhere to standardized lettering and limit the use of colors and “brand elements.”
  • Celebrity endorsements and consumer testimonials are banned.

It’s a challenge for marketers such as Carol Levine, chief executive of energi PR in Montreal, who says pot producers will have to limit traditional advertising tools such as bright colors or cartoons of celebrities. “That’s what’s going to make it so difficult, because investors are going to want to see sales,” she said.

Canada is going to the extreme on the scale, and it’s going to cause issues for a large number of companies and personalities in the industry.  “Lifestyle” type brands are going to have to slant much more to the educational side in order to maintain compliance, and finding ways to advertise a brand effectively will be tricky.  

Solution: Mobile Ad Campaigns. 


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2. California

Of course, California.  What else would you expect from a state that has the single largest market on the planet for cannabis (LA) and that’s only half of the state?  California has a notoriously bad record for actually enforcing laws when it comes to cannabis businesses (how many grey market, pre-ICO type dispensaries can you really have?), but the day may come when they get their act together and start realizing a lot of additional revenue by monetizing infractions, the same way they do traffic tickets.

  • (b) Any advertising or marketing placed in broadcast, cable, radio, print and digital communications shall only be displayed where at least 71. 6 percent of the audience is reasonably expected to be 21 years of age or older, as determined by reliable, up-to-date audience composition data.

  • (c) Any advertising or marketing involving direct, individualized communication or dialogue controlled by the licensee shall utilize a method of age affirmation to verify that the recipient is 21 years of age or older prior to engaging in such communication or dialogue controlled by the licensee. For purposes of this section, such method of age affirmation may include user confirmation, birth date disclosure, or other similar registration method.

Does this mean that advertising is restricted to bars?  To existing dispensaries?  I am not sure where else you can be assured that the target demographic meets the required age limit in a physical setting.  While magazine ads are not likely to be a big enforcement point, it would seem that direct to consumer publications that are sold in bookstores and newsstands could potentially be an Achilles heel.  

Solution: Mobile Ad Campaigns. 


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3. Washington

Washington lightened up a bit on the rules and regs last year, which makes it easier for dispensary owners to at least get their store names out there in front of the general public. 

  • Other forms of signage/outdoor advertising are prohibited, such as sign spinners, sandwich boards, inflatables, persons in costume, etc.

But it doesn’t allow for just anything to happen with that advertising, and proximity based advertising needs to be handled carefully. 

Solution: Mobile Ad Campaign.

How do mobile ad campaigns meet the requirements?

Enough already with the mobile ad campaign suggestions, right?  Normally we might agree with you, but the bottom line is that a well thought out mobile ad campaign is both inexpensive and easy to deploy and manage.  

When choosing the platform to use for mobile, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  1.  If you build a stand alone app, you’re going to be forced to support it, which can be expensive and unprofitable in the long run.  It’s better to be part of an existing app, such as Weedmaps, Leafly, CannabisWallet, or others. 
  2. Make sure that any mobile ad campaigns you run include both a geofencing and a proximity element.  What’s the difference?  Geofencing is a wide area technology that works using the GPS in the phone.  Think of it as a big picture notification method.  Proximity elements are those that recognize triggers like iBeacons, and have a much more narrow range of transmission – these are the ones that we use in the dispensaries once we know that the target is on premises. 
  3. Lock screen notifications.  These are like gold, so treat them well and they will be good to you.  The ability to use something besides SMS to trigger notifications is a huge deal – unlike SMS there is no provision for someone to receive a message they did not opt-in for, and therefore the usual penalties for sending unsolicited SMS (as much as $16,000 per incident in the US) do not apply. 
  4. Ease of changing your message.  If you have to jump through hoops to alter something in your ad campaign, that’s no fun.  Make sure the platform you choose offers you the ability to update as needed, and with little effort on your part. 

These are the basics for compliant advertising campaigns in the cannabis space, at least as far as the rules are concerned today.  

We have several articles previously published about how to create and deploy campaigns, and what elements make for effective campaigns that get click throughs and results, and you’ll find that it’s simple to use CannabisWallet to inexpensively and efficiently run your mobile advertising and marketing campaigns. 

Check out the Cannabiz Blog link at the bottom of the page to find more of those articles.