- Why Compliant Cannabis Content Matters
- 8 Golden Rules of Cannabis Content Compliance
- Compliant Cannabis Marketing Tips
- Policy Guidelines for Cannabis Content Compliance
- Why Work With Content Compliance Experts?
- Keep Compliant and Grow in the Cannabis Industry
Content compliance in the cannabis industry is absolute. There’s no space for a half-baked, glazed-over, or undercooked approach. The laws change constantly. The regulations are complex. And the market is highly saturated.
One wrong move could turn your sweet Mary Jane dreams into a legal (and financial) nightmare.
In heavily regulated industries like marijuana, creativity and compliance go hand-in-hand.
They’re the driving force behind every successful marketing campaign.
Whether you’re a consumer-facing cannabis brand, a B2B vertical, or a 420-friendly vendor, your marketing assets must follow legal and regulatory requirements.
You need to stand out, too, or get lost in a sea of green.
That’s why this comprehensive guide exists. Read on to discover:
- The importance of content compliance in the cannabis industry
- The golden rules of cannabis content compliance
- Cannabis marketing tips
- Content policy guidelines
- The benefits of working with experts
Ready to maximize growth while ticking all the compliance boxes? Let’s get into it.
Why Compliant Cannabis Content Matters
The cannabis industry operates in a unique space. It’s still a relatively young market despite its explosive growth. As regulators play catch-up, new laws change the landscape almost constantly.
To operate legally, ethically, and profitably, cannabis businesses must prioritize content compliance. It’s non-negotiable at every consumer touchpoint.
Here are four top reasons why:
Non-Compliance is a No-No in the Cannabis Industry
Non-compliant content is a one-way ticket to failure. It poses major business risks for cannabis brands and their servicing industries.
Deceitful claims, unethical advertising, careless marketing, and other non-compliant actions could lead to:
- Legal penalties
- License suspensions
- Civil lawsuits
- Social backlash
- Financial and reputational losses
- And even total business shutdown
Marketing regulations are extremely stringent for marijuana and CBD brands. But that doesn’t mean B2Bs and related businesses are exempt.
Service providers of non-compliant businesses are also accountable. Failure to comply can land them in hot water too.
Non-compliance is just not worth the associated risks.
Consumer Safety and Trust
Compliant cannabis content is transparent. It educates consumers through accurate information. Consumers can only make informed decisions with expert guidance.
This applies to verticals like 420-friendly finance, insurance, and payment processing too. Compliant content empowers cannabis brands to understand their rights and responsibilities.
When B2C and B2B consumers have reliable information, trust in the industry grows. It’s something the slowly-maturing marijuana market needs.
Brand Reputation and Credibility
The stakes are higher for a brand’s reputation in the competitive cannabis industry. Memorable design alone isn’t enough to stand out in the crowd.
With compliant cannabis content, B2Cs and B2Bs can build a solid reputation. This tells consumers and regulators your brand is a credible authority. It’s critical to gaining customer loyalty and market share.
Industry Growth and Legitimization
Content compliance raises the bar for marketing and advertising practices. It helps legitimize the cannabis industry by promoting professionalism.
The negative rhetoric around weed is shifting, albeit slowly. That’s why every cannabis brand has a part to play.
Ultimately, adhering to compliance standards paves the way for industry acceptance.
8 Golden Rules of Cannabis Content Compliance
The complex nature of cannabis law means content compliance isn’t a luxury. It’s a strict requirement. Brands must minimize their risks in an already-tricky legal landscape.
Marketing and content are core components of that.
Here are eight golden rules of cannabis content compliance:
1. Know Your Applicable Cannabis Laws and Regulations
Cannabis laws and regulations are multifaceted and ever-changing. Surface-level knowledge isn’t enough to ensure content compliance.
You need a deep understanding of your national and state marijuana laws.
- How is cannabis regulated?
- What regional regulations exist?
- Are any new marijuana laws pending?
- Do they apply to your business?
- How do the marketing restrictions affect your marketing efforts?
- What are the penalties for non-compliance?
These are all questions you need to answer before marketing and content creation. In semi-legal markets, compliance standards can shift quickly. Ongoing vigilance is a must.
2. Understand Cannabis Marketing and Advertising Limitations
Cannabis marketing looks different in every jurisdiction and niche. What’s permitted in one region may not apply in another. Don’t stumble into a landmine. Side-step any potential issues. Mitigate the risks.
Get to know your precise marketing and advertising limitations.
And keep these seven universal dos and don’ts top of mind:
DON’T Use Restricted Imagery or Videos
Most jurisdictions restrict certain imagery or videos in marketing messages. Get up to speed with your applicable rules. In general:
- Don’t use imagery depicting cannabis consumption in any form. This includes pictures of smoking and storing accessories. Avoid using images of vaporizers, bongs, rolling papers, or medical devices.
- Don’t use cartoonish characters or animations that could appeal to children.
- Don’t use medical imagery. Avoid pictures depicting doctors, nurses, and pharmaceutical items like pills or syringes.
Digital platforms also limit certain cannabis-related imagery. For example, here’s a screenshot from Meta’s Transparency Center:
DO Use Safe and Educational Terminology
Your cannabis content should never appeal to minors or make unsubstantiated claims. Promoting illegal activities is also a big no-no. Even the slightest perception of these actions could spell trouble.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) frequently imposes steep fines on transgressors.
In the U.K., the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has strict rules and guidelines. Goods classified as “medicine” must be licensed.
A product not classified as “medicine” may not be marketed using certain terms. These include words like “heal,” “restore”, “prevent”, “avoid”, “cure”, or “fight.”
Steer clear of the following terminology in your cannabis content assets:
- Drug references. Avoid wording that implicitly or explicitly refers to cannabis as a drug. Don’t make associations with other illicit substances. Minimize the use of drug-related slang terms. These include “pot,” “reefer,” “ganja,” and similar.
- Medical claims. Never make, imply, or suggest unsubstantiated health claims. Don’t make statements about treating or curing specific medical conditions. The FTC cracked down on CBD brands for doing this.
- Exaggerated and deceptive terms. Unless you provide acceptable proof, avoid using absolute medical terms. Avoid phrases like “clinically proven,” “scientifically backed,” “supplements,” and similar wording. Refrain from using terms like “100% guaranteed results” too.
- Youth-appealing language. Cannabis is only legal for adults. Steer clear of terminology that may appeal to children.
- Promoting illegality: Never use language that implies or promotes breaking any laws. “Get high legally” or “circumvent the laws” are good examples.
- Product testimonials or endorsements by doctors. Such content can be viewed as misleading or deceptive. Certain authorities and digital platforms might flag it.
Always use qualifying language in your cannabis content. Safe terminology like “may,” “might,” and “could” can prevent unproven claims. And stick to the facts. Education is powerful in the marijuana industry.
These are general guidelines. Consult your local marijuana laws to understand your precise legal limitations.
DON’T Discount Age Restrictions
Cannabis is an age-restricted industry. Naturally, lawmakers hold brands accountable in this department. Implement effective measures like:
- Age-gating access to online cannabis-related content. Birthday verification on your website is also recommended.
- Adhering to and setting age restrictions on social media. Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms have tools for age-restricted content. Make sure your public pages conform to their policies too.
- Targeting a mature audience with cannabis advertising materials. This step affects every aspect of your marketing strategy.
- Labeling cannabis content and products with “For Adult Use”.
Age restrictions vary by country and region, too. Multistate operators must stay within the confines of each state-specific law.
DO Include Disclaimers and Warnings
Like anything, cannabis and CBD products carry potential risks. Be clear about these dangers in your content. Where required, always include specific and factual product information about possible:
- Side effects and impairment risks
- Allergic reactions
- Addiction risks
- Use dangers
- Overdosing risks
Disclaimers are also required by law. They inform consumers of potential limitations or hazards about your products or services. These disclosures also minimize legal liability arising from the use of your offerings.
Concise warnings and disclaimers keep your content legally compliant. These aspects instill trust in your brand and offerings. They also communicate your commitment to safe and responsible marketing.
DO Prioritize Accessibility
Remember the real-life cases mentioned earlier in this guide? Accessibility is an often overlooked aspect of compliance. But it’s a vital one. Cater to people with disabilities. Make sure they can easily navigate and understand your cannabis content.
- Use the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Develop principles to provide equitable access to your digital content.
- Incorporate alternative content formats. Text descriptions, audio transcripts, and closed captions on videos can be a tremendous help.
- Easy website navigation and contrasting colors also enhance accessibility.
Accessibility is both a moral and legal requirement. It benefits all users and strengthens responsible business practices.
DON’T Ignore User-Generated Content
User-generated content (UGC) is a powerful tool in the cannabis industry. But it can be a double-edged sword.
Content compliance applies to UGC, like any other cannabis content. The same limitations and rules apply too. Monitor your public comments, reviews, and testimonials. Implement strict removal policies for non-complying UGC. Timely moderation is vital.
Regulators hold brands responsible for non-compliant UGC. Unsubstantiated or misleading product claims and the like fall within this scope.
DO Make Transparent and Factual Health Claims
Any claims affecting public health must be legally compliant, truthful, and substantiated. The onus is on cannabis and CBD companies to ensure this. Be transparent and precise about your products.
Frequently review the applicable health claim regulations in your region. Develop content policies that abide by these rules. Ensure consistent compliance across all marketing channels and messaging.
Further substantiate any health-related claims with credible evidence, like:
- Regulatory approvals
- Lab testing
- Clinical trials
- Scientific studies
- Expert analyses and opinions
CBD and marijuana companies must tread carefully in the ever-shifting regulatory landscape. To do this, evidence-based marketing practices are vital. They help satisfy legal requirements. They also distinguish your brand as reliable and responsible.
DON’T Dismiss Packaging and Labeling Content
Content on product labels or packaging conveys essential information. Those facts must be truthful and legally compliant. Include the following elements in such content:
- Identifiable traits like product names, descriptions, and net weights and volumes.
- Product information such as ingredients, additives, and preservatives. Include flavorings and potential allergens too.
- THC, CBD, and other cannabinoid content. This is typically a legal requirement.
- Quality control data like batch lot numbers, best before, and expiry dates.
- Accurate dosage guidelines.
- Health and safety warnings and disclaimers. These include side effects, reactions, or any other potential use risks.
- Applicable third-party testing and certifications.
Regulatory guidelines may have other requirements, like child-resistant packaging. Plain language, font size, and font legibility are also considerations. Companies may be legally penalized for such unclear aspects.
3. Adhere to Social Media Platform Rules
Social media is instrumental in building an online presence. In today’s digital world, it’s a necessity. But restricted industries like CBD and cannabis have unique marketing obstacles.
Social media platforms are bound by legal compliance standards. They have their own policies on cannabis-related content. Here’s a cross-platform breakdown:
Cannabis Advertising Rules and Guidelines by Social Media Platform
|Platform||Cannabis and CBD Ad and Content Rules||Source|
Google’s YouTube doesn’t allow videos promoting cannabis sales. This includes related products or services.
YouTube further prohibits content aiming to sell or facilitate access to regulated or illicit goods. This includes content like comments, links, and contact information.
Educational and scientific content is allowed. It may still be removed for age-restriction reasons, though.
YouTube only allows ads for FDA-approved CBD products. Hemp-derived topicals with less than 0.3% THC are also permitted.
Certain geographical and other criteria apply. YouTube Masthead ads are excluded.
All other ads promoting marijuana, its use, or consumption are banned. This includes cannabis coffee shops, bongs, vape pens, and such.
Meta’s Facebook permits CBD ads meeting certain criteria. This applies to U.S. advertisers only. Ads are also allowed for hemp products in Canada, Mexico, and the U.S.
The platform prohibits ads promoting THC and cannabis products. Ads for related items, including vaporizers and e-cigarettes, are also banned.
Certain educational cannabis content is permitted. But it must abide by Facebook’s rules.
|Facebook CBD and Related Products Policy|
Meta’s Instagram explicitly bans the sale and promotion of cannabis. The ban applies to all regions.
Dispensaries and other cannabis companies can’t use the ‘contact us’ tab to promote their businesses.
Any content trying to buy, sell, donate, gift, trade, or request cannabis is banned. The same goes for non-medical drugs and related usage.
|X (formerly Twitter)|
X (formerly Twitter) allows ads promoting CBD, THC, and cannabis-related products and services. This is subject to certain criteria.
Only advertisers in the U.S., Canada, and Thailand can currently run such ads.
X also bans ads promoting drugs and related items. Depictions of drug dispensaries and hard drug use aren’t allowed.
|X Drugs and Drug Paraphernalia Policy|
Pinterest allows ads for hemp seed oil topicals with no CBD and low THC.
Medicinal and therapeutic health claims are prohibited. Educational content is allowed for CBD and hemp.
Pinterest bans advertising and informational material about illegal or recreational drugs. Cannabis falls under this category. Content on accessories for use, storage, and consumption is also prohibited.
|Pinterest Advertising Guidelines|
LinkedIn bans the sale or promotion of marijuana products. Authorized advertisers can only promote certain products that meet the platform’s criteria.
These items include medical devices (like vape pens). Prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines (such as CBD products) may also be included.
|LinkedIn Advertising Policies|
The following content may be considered as promoting cannabis:
- Product prices
- Price lists
- Potency statements
Avoid platform violations by steering clear of the above in your social media content.
Cannabis marketing and ad content must abide by platform-specific rules. They may change as new laws are enacted. Stay informed and review them regularly.
4. Create Compliant Email Campaigns
Email marketing remains an effective channel for engaging and informing customers. But it also carries compliance risks, especially for cannabis businesses.
Ensure every email campaign adheres to the applicable laws. Implement:
- Informed consent with a simple opt-in process. Keep these records safe.
- Robust age verification measures. This ensures your cannabis email marketing efforts only reach a mature audience.
- Disclosure policies for any product warnings and disclaimers. Include information about affiliate relationships, endorsements, and paid ads too.
- Standard operating procedures (SOPs) to follow email regulations. These rules include the CAN-SPAM Act. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) may also apply.
- Any email provider requirements. Some platforms are cannabis-friendly. Others aren’t. Review the rules to avoid any marketing mishaps.
Your marketing emails should also be transparent. Avoid misleading claims. Restricted terminology and imagery apply here too.
5. Don’t Break Digital Ad Rules
Digital advertising is tricky for marijuana companies. Most paid ad platforms prohibit the promotion of cannabis, even where it’s legal. CBD advertising is less restrictive but still has limitations.
Understand what platform-specific limitations apply to your products or services.
Google prohibits ads relating to cannabis. This includes educational ad copy and ads for associated marijuana goods or services.
In January 2023, Google updated its advertising policies. It now allows CBD ads meeting certain conditions. The criteria include the following requirements:
- CBD pharmaceuticals must have the FDA’s stamp of approval.
- For topicals, only those derived from hemp with 0.3% or less THC are permitted.
- CBD ads are only allowed in Colorado, Puerto Rico, and California.
- CBD advertisers must apply for Google and LegitScript certification.
Any other Google ads promoting CBD-based products are still prohibited. This includes advertisements promoting CBD vapes, e-cigarettes, supplements, and food additives.
Microsoft’s Bing ads are much more restrictive than Google ads. According to its Drugs and Related Paraphernalia Policy, ads cannot promote:
- Cannabis or medical marijuana.
- Any CBD products.
- The cultivation, use, or distribution of illegal or recreational substances.
- Equipment used to conceal, make, or consume recreational drugs.
Marketing cannabis on TV and radio is also prohibited in most jurisdictions. That said, certain digital audio and connected TV platforms allow such advertising.
6. Consult the Experts
Cannabis laws and compliance standards are complicated. Marketing professionals can often overlook or misinterpret them. And the consequences can be dire.
Not confident about any content compliance aspect? Consult one of our experts. Oversight, support, and peace of mind are strategic investments.
Cannabis attorneys and legalists offer region-specific guidance on applicable laws. These experts are instrumental in:
- Regulatory compliance
- License acquisition
- Risk evaluation and mitigation
- Contractual agreements
Legal counsel identifies any potential risks in your content and marketing strategies.
They also assist in overall business compliance. It’s a requirement to operate and market legally.
Cannabis Marketing Compliance Specialists
Cannabis content compliance specialists are invaluable. They have the knowledge and experience to align your content with industry regulations. Their services typically include content audits, compliance training, and remediation guidance.
Regulatory consultants specialize in applicable regulations. Their expertise allows businesses to readily adopt compliance standards. These experts can assist with license applications, compliance audits, and policy development.
Partner with proven experts to supplement your internal compliance efforts. Doing so can mitigate far-reaching legal issues and penalties.
7. Track and Adapt to Regulatory Changes
Cannabis content compliance is dynamic. It changes as new laws, regulations, and requirements emerge. Marijuana companies have to stay agile. Track and adapt to regulatory changes with a systematic approach:
- Stay informed of upcoming legal and regulatory proposals. Regularly monitor your national, state, and local laws.
- Conduct periodic compliance audits. Identify any improvements to content policies or processes. Frequently review all published content and marketing assets too.
- Be proactive and self-regulate. Adopt similar approaches to other restricted industries. For example, the Beer Institute has its own Marketing and Advertising Code.
- Conduct regular staff training. Keep your marketing team and other employees compliance-ready.
A proactive approach keeps your content strategies tracking alongside regulatory changes. This protects your marketing efforts as the cannabis industry matures.
8. Collaborate in the Cannabis Industry
Collaborate with industry peers to share best compliance practices. Working with other stakeholders helps the broader market adopt regulatory changes. It also promotes compliance.
Consider joining cannabis industry groups and associations such as:
- The National Cannabis Industry Association
- DC Cannabis Business Association
- The Cannabis Business Association
- The Minority Cannabis Business Association
- The European Cannabis Association
- The European Medicinal Cannabis Association
Cannabis marketing compliance doesn’t exist in a silo. It’s an intrinsic part of every business practice. Joining reputable associations holds your brand up to a higher standard.
Compliant Cannabis Marketing Tips
Marketing limitations aside, cannabis brands have various opportunities to promote their businesses. The key is to balance creative efforts with compliance requirements.
1. Leverage Your Brand
A memorable brand doesn’t have to promote its products to be recognized. We all know what the apple symbol, the big red ‘M,’ or the black tick logo represent. In the highly restrictive cannabis industry, your brand is your greatest asset.
So invest in brand marketing. Use content assets like videos, social media posts, images, and blogs. Tell your brand’s story through:
- Industry guides and ebooks. Highlight your expertise and provide real value on cannabis-related topics in your niche. Use educational content in various forms, but keep it compliant.
- Process breakdowns and origin stories. People are naturally curious, and they appreciate transparency. Give them an inside look at your team and production processes. Use diverse formats like video, podcasts, and blogs.
- Consistent content across all platforms. Your design elements, values, and brand voice must be entrenched in every marketing asset. Use everything from branded apparel to creative copy to stand out.
- Corporate social responsibility. The cannabis industry is, by and large, a community-driven market. Showcase how your brand meets sustainability, governance, and compliance standards.
Your brand is arguably your most powerful marketing asset, especially in the cannabis industry. It takes time and consistency to develop, but the payoff can be huge.
2. Maximize Organic Growth
With limited paid ad options, marijuana brands must prioritize organic growth. Online visibility tracks alongside this. If people can’t see your business, they won’t know it exists.
Even then, the cannabis space is highly competitive.
Focus on marketing strategies that propel your brand to the top of the search results. And to the top of consumers’ minds.
Cannabis Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search engine optimization gets your cannabis brand in front of more people organically.
Use the best SEO practices to get your website ranking. These include:
- Publishing high-quality content that meets Google’s E-E-A-T requirements.
- In-depth keyword research related to your niche.
- Creating topical clusters to enhance your online authority.
- Leveraging local SEO, more people can find your business.
- Optimizing on-page elements like mobile-friendliness.
SEO is a multifaceted strategy.
Develop comprehensive guidelines. Target every on-page, off-page, technical, and semantic SEO aspect. Do all this while ensuring complete content compliance.
It’s a long game, but a vital one for every cannabis business.
Cannabis Content Marketing
Marijuana brands like cultivators, dispensaries, and concentrate companies exist in a unique space. They have extensive expertise in their niches.
The same is true for ancillary industries. Software vendors, payment processors, and industry consultants are all cannabis-specific experts.
Turn your expert insights into valuable assets through content marketing. Create guides, blog posts, and social media stories. Engage your cannabis community with riveting and authoritative content that educates and inspires.
Cannabis Events and Expos
Gain exposure by sponsoring or attending cannabis industry events. It’s an excellent way to showcase your goods or services and build your network.
Build relationships with cannabis media outlets and journalists. Create brand awareness through press releases, interviews, and guest posts. These PR activities help shape your brand as an authority. They also get you media coverage when it matters.
3. Power Up With Programmatic Advertising
Google, Bing, and other digital platforms ban cannabis ads. Thankfully, they’re not the only places to advertise marijuana online.
Programmatic advertising leverages 420-friendly website networks. It allows you to buy and sell cannabis ad space automatically.
Present your ads to specific audiences through contextual and site retargeting. Third-party audience targeting is also an option. Use various media formats that work for your brand. Choose from native and display ads to video and audio ads.
Some programmatic advertising platforms offer live metrics too. This means you can optimize your ad campaigns in real time. Of course, compliance standards still apply.
Policy Guidelines for Cannabis Content Compliance
Effective cannabis content compliance requires clear policy guidelines. It’s not enough for the marketing team to understand compliance. All C-suite executives, staff, outsourced providers, and vendors must do so too.
Here are six key steps to creating content compliance policy guidelines:
Consult Experts in Cannabis Marketing Compliance
Work with a specialized marketing compliance firm. Develop policy guidelines that adapt to the shifting legal landscape. Leverage their expertise to inform policy changes, monitoring, and staff training.
Create and Distribute Content Compliance Rules
Draft a content compliance guide with all the do’s and don’ts of cannabis marketing. These rules should include national, regional, and local laws. Set out the regulatory requirements too.
Include rules for relevant aspects like digital content, social media, and advertising. Create a list of rectifying steps to take for any non-compliance.
Keep Up With Changing Regulations
Designate a staff member or compliance officer to track specific regulatory changes. They must monitor cannabis laws, platform rules, and any other relevant regulations. Establish a system to monitor and incorporate regulatory changes.
Perform Regular Content Audits
Conduct routine content reviews to maintain compliance. Audit all content. This includes website copy, social media posts, digital ad copy, email campaigns, and videos. Identify and amend any content that may violate internal or external compliance rules.
Implement Compliance Checks Before Publishing
Create a pre-publishing compliance review process. The sign-off team must assess aspects like language, imagery, and claims. This prevents any overlooked or unwitting non-compliance.
Why Work With Content Compliance Experts?
Navigating the legal labyrinth of compliance is no easy feat. It requires specialized knowledge and know-how. Teaming up with marketing compliance experts isn’t just beneficial. It’s often essential.
Consider these key advantages:
Depth of Knowledge on Complex Regulations
Cannabis compliance experts understand the nuances of global, regional, and local laws. They interpret tricky regulations and apply them effectively. Whether you’re marketing globally or locally, compliance pros keep your cannabis content legal.
The Best Tools and Resources for Compliance Monitoring
Experts in marketing compliance use top-quality tools to do their jobs. They leverage the best resources and software. This means 24/7 regulation and compliance monitoring.
Expert Content Strategy and Creation
Cannabis content compliance experts know how to leverage laws positively. They help develop impactful and compliant content frameworks. Well-versed in the legal complexities, they ensure every content strategy meets compliance standards.
Seamless Content Review and Auditing
Content compliance is already complex for cannabis brands. Auditing content for compliance is even more demanding. Experts take this burden off of businesses.
They use meticulous and organized content review and auditing processes. This ensures non-compliance is flagged and fixed before any content goes live.
Ongoing Compliance Monitoring and Changes
Cannabis markets are in a constant state of flux. The rapidly-changing laws leave no space for compliance errors. Given the strict legal penalties for non-compliance, having ‘always-on’ monitoring is invaluable.
Keep Compliant and Grow in the Cannabis Industry
Cannabis is a thriving industry. There’s a customer for everything, from CBD products and THC edibles to growing equipment and financial services.
Now’s the best time to nurture your canna-business and watch it grow like, well, weed.
Adopt a compliance-first approach. Know your marijuana laws. Understand your marketing limitations. Ensure all content abides by platform and legal rules.
So partner with experts. Develop a content compliance policy. Monitor regulatory changes. Perform frequent content audits and implement review processes.
Compliance isn’t an obstacle. It’s an enabler.
Invest in compliance to confidently maximize your reach and returns.
Learn more about future-proofing your brand with compliance here.