Recently there has been a crack down on what type of business can advertise to the public. The latest community to take a hit was the marijuana community. This is another step back in the long line of digression that medical marijuana is facing. This begs the question, is it fair? Shouldn’t medical marijuana, even recreational marijuana, be given the same benefits as other recognized medicines? Here is everything you need to know about the recent ban on cannabis advertising in California.
How Does Cannabis Advertising Work?
Whether it is a billboard promoting marijuana delivery or an online ad for a local distributor, one thing is clear. Cannabis advertising is everywhere. It should be known that every state has different guidelines when it comes to how they advertise their marijuana business. In larger cities where marijuana is celebrated, you can’t turn a corner without seeing advertising. In Detroit, for instance, there are several large billboards aimed to show you where you can legally obtain marijuana.
Before the advertising ban, California was leading the way in creative marketing for an ever expanding brand. Along with roadside signs and magazine ads, California tapped into a much larger market through word of mouth. Larger dispensaries did something brilliant by letting their customers do the advertising for them. Whether it is promo codes or merchandise advertising their business, they were able to reach a wide audience. But, was this enough?
This past winter a controversial ad appeared over the freeway near Sacramento that featured an iconic cannabis promoter. While this form of advertising caught the attention of the marijuana community, it was not met with 100% positivity. This billboard started a tailspin which ended in a new campaign aimed to ban such ads in California. This was a major blow when it comes to cannabis advertising. Leading this charge was none other than government officials who have always vocally opposed cannabis.
What Is the Ban on Cannabis Advertising?
The tension between certain legislators and the cannabis community finally came to blows during a special session meeting last week. The hope was to end certain types of advertising by specifically targeting cannabis branding and labeling. Cannabis branding is an important part of cannabis advertising because they need to find a way to stand out. If you think of cannabis like any other product, there needs to be something special to differentiate each brand. Without being able to brand their specific product, cannabis has been left vulnerable.
The legislators have taken these measures in hopes to protect the youth in California. This is the same approach that government officials took when banning cigarette ads. Even ads for alcohol have to go through testing to ensure that it is not being marketing towards kids. But, is this a fair move for the cannabis community? Putting marijuana on the same level as tobacco and alcohol isn’t a reasonable request. With so many regulations and taxes already put on cannabis, how much government hangover is really necessary?
The bill in question is much more specific when it comes to advertising guidelines. This is especially evident when it comes to branding. Certain brands will no longer be able to display cannabis brands on merchandise like t-shirts and hats. Legislators believe that these products specifically target teenagers. Luckily for the cannabis community, this bill has ultimately failed. This does mean, however, that California is out of the woods either.
Free Speech vs. Public Protection
The recent string of attacks against cannabis advertising has re-sparked the free speech debate. Some theorize that this isn’t a battle against protecting the public youth. They believe that this is instead an attempt to move backward on the progress of cannabis as a business. These people have a point. Forbidding cannabis businesses from giving out merchandise that displays their brand is a free speech issue. While the government can regulate public advertising marijuana can do, can they really tell people what to wear?
It’s not like symbols of marijuana are not readily available to the public now. You see shirts and other merchandise featuring a marijuana leaf in every mall in America. So, who is to say that cannabis companies can’t use this popularity to advance their brand?
While the recent attempt to ban cannabis advertising was shot down, this doesn’t mean that marijuana is in the clear. This comes in a long line of setbacks for the community. If anything, this fight shows that the cannabis market is one to take seriously. Marijuana is shown to be a largely profitable business so they should be able to advertise as such. While obviously there will be government restrictions on how they can advertise, there needs to be a line drawn. This starts by letting the community establish themselves as a brand which then will allow them to advertise as such.