What's the Deal With Cannabis Advertising Restrictions?

What's the Deal With Cannabis Advertising Restrictions?

Published on 6/17/21

The cannabis industry may be getting a lot of buzz right now, but there are still a ton of restrictions cannabusiness owners face. Unfortunately, one of those restrictions is in how cannabis businesses can market themselves. Advertising through traditional platforms is extremely limited, even in extremely pro-marijuana states. This can leave even the most experienced cannabusiness owner wondering, "How can I advertise my dispensary?" For all the cannabis business owners and marketers out there, let's take a look at what common advertising restrictions are and how Where's Weed might be able to help. 

Cannabis Legalization in America


Now recreational marijuana is legal in 18 states, with Connecticut and New York being the most recent addition to the list in 2021. Before that, November 2020 saw full legalization hit Arizona, New Jersey, Montana and South Dakota. Medical marijuana, on the other hand, is legal in 36 states, with South Dakota and Alabama being the newest editions in 2020. Unfortunately, even when marijuana is legal at the state level, it is still illegal at the federal level. Until the federal government removes marijuana from its list of Schedule I drugs (like it did for Hemp with the 2018 Farm Bill), there will be tension between state and federal regulation of cannabis. 

Because marijuana is federally illegal, even in states where it is legal, it cannot be transported across any state borders. Banks will not do business with marijuana companies, taxes are severe and research is limited. In addition, many of the primary advertising platforms used by other industries are not allowed to cannabis because of federal regulation. Google Ads abide by federal law, as do social media paid advertising (such as Facebook and Instagram) and most television networks, meaning that none of these advertising avenues are open to cannabis businesses in any capacity.

State Regulations and Governing Boards


Unfortunately, states also put a lot of restrictions into place (this includes restrictions for medical marijuana advertising, too). Local television and billboards are the two primary mediums that states have control over, and most states (even where recreational weed is legalized) don't allow advertising via these avenues. These state-by-state regulations are controlled by governing boards, also known as "cannabis regulatory agencies." Every state where marijuana is legal has a regulatory board that sets state-wide regulations for things such as taxation, sales, zoning, licensing and advertising (to name a few key regulated aspects of the cannabis industry). Let's take a look at a handful of the big cannabis states and what their regulations are. 

California Regulations

California cannabis advertising laws demand that an advertisement must be shown where at least 71.6% of the viewers of the advertisement or promotion must be at least 21 years old - reliable, up-to-date data must be presented for ad approval. The most recent restriction to California marijuana advertising was announced on January 21, 2021, wherein no billboard or similar type of advertising for cannabis is allowed on interstates and highways that cross the state's border at any point.

Washington Regulations

Like California, Washington cannabis advertising laws mandate that the intended audience must be at least 21 years old and that no advertisements of any form may be distributed within one-thousand feet of a school, park, recreational center, etc. - which means that even forms of advertisement like radio are ill-advised because they could be played at any of these locations. Billboard advertisements are allowed, but with very limited images, logos and promotions.

Colorado Regulations

Unlike California, Colorado cannabis advertising laws recently allowed for cannabis companies to advertise on billboards; however, Denver and several other cities have not adopted the rule and govern their own policies. Television, radio and all other modes of advertising are not allowed if 30% or more of the receiving audience is likely to be under 21 years old. Additionally, regulations mandate that out-of-state visitors cannot be targeted in advertisements, along with a long list of other limitations.

Oregon Regulations

Oregon cannabis advertising laws are less detailed than states like Colorado and Washington, but also state that advertisements through radio, billboards, print media, internet or television must verify that the receiving audience is comprised of at least 70% people 21 years or older. Marijuana advertisements cannot display the consumption of marijuana or make claims that there are therapeutic effects (there are many other similar restrictions, as well). 

Illinois Regulations

Illinois cannabis advertising laws are very minimalist compared to the other states we've covered. Advertisements cannot be placed within 1,000 feet of a school, recreation center, public park or library, etc. Nor can advertisements be posted on public transport vehicles or publicly owned property. Otherwise, the cannabis industry has been left to regulate itself in Illinois but must keep federal regulations in mind constantly, which means most forms of advertising are still unavailable.

Alternative Cannabis Advertising Avenues


Two alternative advertising options can have a major impact on the success of your dispensary marketing: social media and cannabis websites like Where's Weed. 

Social Media

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn are the main social media platforms that your cannabis business can use to reach countless potential (and loyal) customers. Social media allows you to publish a lot of content and grow followers, develop your brand, become an industry resource and connect/engage with your followers. The first step is creating a social media content calendar and cannabis marketing plan, then you get to analyze what works and what doesn't as you reach out to your community. Unfortunately, eCommerce and paid ads are still not allowed on social media platforms. Fortunately, those are necessary for getting your brand out there and making a big impact.

Where's Weed

Another very lucrative option you have as a cannabis business, whether you're a delivery service, doctor, smoke shop or dispensary, is to create an account on Where's Weed. We are a cannabis hub with many invaluable assets:

  1. Create a profile and engage with our digital advertising through individualized account management
  2. Be listed on a legal advertising platform
  3. Build out your menu, products and services for customers
  4. Enable online pre-ordering 
  5. Boost deals and promotions

These features can elevate your cannabusiness above the competition and put your company in front of customers you otherwise wouldn't have access to. The future of cannabis is digital - between a strong social media presence and a dynamic account with Where's Weed, your cannabusiness will be ready to move forward and advertise properly regardless of state and federal restrictions!

Have you advertised with Where's Weed or other methods like social media? Let us know what your experience has been like and what tips you have for the community. Comment below!

Where's Weed