California’s transition to a fully recreational state in the fourth quarter of 2016 was not without controversy and it would not be an exaggeration to suggest that Proposition 64 had any army of individuals/groups which did not support its passage. Opponents of Prop 64 continuously raised the belabored point that legalizing marijuana for commercial use would ultimately lead to greater public consumption. The idea was that as marijuana became available, people would have greater access to it and would not feel the same burden of social stigma which otherwise prevented many people from consuming the herb.
Defenders of Proposition 64, conversely, marshaled a different albeit connected argument and asserted that only through the legalization of cannabis can the dangerous and unregulated marijuana black market be crushed. This debate is as much focused on policy as it is perhaps on the social sciences but implicates many different issues law makers needed to consider before pushing Prop 64.
Regulating Marijuana Advertisements
Prop 64 includes a variety of subtypes of “advertising” including billboards, publications, television and radio ads, and graphic(s). Marketing, however, has been defined much more broadly and includes any promotion or selling of cannabis or cannabis-related products. This includes sponsorship at events or developing products to appeal specific types of demographics.
The use of digital adds is particularly interesting and limits ads in cable, radio, print, digital, and broadcast mediums to areas where a significant majority of the audience can be reasonably expected to fall into the 21 years and over category based on recent and reliable audience data.
Marijuana Advertising in California
Our marijuana lawyers are quick to note that that Prop 64 also necessitates that any marketing or advertisements by State-authored cannabis licensees:
- Accurately identify the licensee responsible for the content;
- Employ a method to confirm the age of any individual with which a licensee enters into a direct communication exchange;
- Be truthful regarding the verification process
The following include several of the more prominent restrictions on marketing or advertising cannabis in California:
1) No cannabis billboard ads are permitted on a highway or interstate that crosses the border into a neighboring State.
2) No cannabis promotion targeting the sale of marijuana to anyone under the age of 21 is permitted.
3) No promotional material with language, gestures, music, graphics, symbols, characters, or other content known for attracting mostly those under 21 years of age is permitted.
4) No advertising on a sign within 1,000 feet of a youth center, day care, or elementary, middle, junior, or high school.
5) Use free giveaways of cannabis marijuana or related accessories as a business promotional tactic.
Marijuana Marketing Compliance
Despite the Prop’s approval in November 2016, marijuana ads won’t be hitting the California airwaves immediately. Indeed, marijuana is still illegal under Schedule one of the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) and that has undoubtedly put a hamper on this effort. While independently-owned broadcast stations are more amenable to the advertisement of cannabis related goods on their channels, the State’s broadcasting stations are far more reserved.
Of course, in any business, sales is the name of the game and marketing/advertising is often the backbone of a company’s sales strategy. Please be sure to contact our marijuana law firm to ensure your marketing program is compliant with the law.