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Woman working at laptop with jar of cannabis nearby

Regulation-Compliant Cannabis Marketing: A How-To

The following is adapted from Basis Technologies’ cannabis advertising guide, Cannabis Marketing in the Roaring 2020’s. To get even more cannabis advertising insights, strategies, and statistics, download the guide today. 

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. To further complicate matters, social media platforms like Facebook, audio platforms like Spotify, and search platforms Google each have different regulations for how marketers can promote cannabis products. 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 regulations might feel like reefer madness, marketers can minimize overwhelm by approaching them in three tiers: Federal, state, and platform-specific. Read on for an overview of each layer: 

Federal Cannabis Marketing Regulations 

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:  

  • Does not assert that a product can diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent disease.  
  • Does assert that a product can promote, stimulate, maintain, or support a human body function that relates to a non-disease condition. 

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. 

State-by-State Cannabis Marketing Regulations 

On the state level, State Departments of Health set regulations for cannabis advertising. Before developing creative for a cannabis campaign, it’s critical to identify which states you’ll be running the campaigns within and to research the marketing regulations in each state. C Media’s Cannabis Advertising Regulations State-by-State Guide is a great starting point for this research. 

Advertising Platform-Specific Cannabis Marketing Regulations 

Finally, marketers should research cannabis marketing guidelines for each platform where they plan to place ads, as they all vary. For example:  

  • Facebook’s U.S. advertising policy prohibits ads that promote cannabis sales.  
  • Instagram doesn’t allow people or organizations to advertise or sell cannabis on their platform, regardless of state or country.  
  • Google prohibits ads for substances that alter mental state for the purpose of recreation or otherwise induce “highs.” 

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. 

Get the Guide to Cannabis Marketing 

There you have it: By approaching cannabis marketing regulations at the federal, state, and platform levels, 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. 

Get the Guide