In 1911, Massachusetts became the first state to restrict cannabis on a state level. A century later, in 2016, state voters elected to legalize recreational cannabis. Now, Massachusetts is one of the states at the forefront of cannabis reform, moving closer to establishing a regulated cannabis market, similar to that of alcohol.
Needless to say, Massachusetts has had a long history with cannabis and the industry regulations. Sales and advertising regulations become more complex as legislation continues to change at a rapid pace.
The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission has implemented a whole set of marketing and advertising regulations surrounding three main concerns:
- Age restrictions
- Exhaustive warnings
- Discretion of advertising
- Ensure that at least 85% of the target audience for any ads made on television, radio, mobile applications, social media, and the internet is reasonably expected to be 21 or older (The “85% Rule”).
- Do not advertise using anyone under the age of 21 or elements like mascots, cartoons, sponsorships, or and celebrity endorsements that are considered to appeal to a person less than 21 years of age.
- Make sure your brand’s website is designed with an age-gate that verifies that all site visitors are 21 years of age or older.
- Your product should be packaged in opaque or plainly designed, child-resistant containers (certified by a qualified packaging testing firm). The packaging should be resealable if the product contains multiple servings.
- Your packaging design should also not be made attractive to minors. This means that the design is prohibited from:
- using bright or neon colors
- resembling any existing branded consumer products, including foods and beverages, that do not contain cannabis
- featuring cartoons, symbols, or celebrities that are commonly used to market products to minors;
- featuring images of minors; or
- featuring words that refer to products that are commonly associated with minors or marketed to minors.
- If your cannabis product is intended for repeat use, it should also allow a consumer to easily divide the product into single servings. For example, edible cannabis products in a solid form must have easy and permanent scoring to identify individual servings.
- Any marketing, advertising, and branding created for viewing by the public must include the statement “Please Consume Responsibly,” on the face of the advertisement in addition to at least two of the following warnings in their entirety:
- “This product may cause impairment and may be habit forming.”
- “Marijuana can impair concentration, coordination and judgment. Do not operate a vehicle or machinery under the influence of this drug.”
- “There may be health risks associated with consumption of this product.”
- “For use only by adults 21 years of age or older. Keep out of the reach of children.”
- “Marijuana should not be used by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.”
- All marketing, advertising, and branding must include the following warning, including capitalization:
“This product has not been analyzed or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There is limited information on the side effects of using this product, and there may be associated health risks. Marijuana use during pregnancy and breast-feeding may pose potential harms. It is against the law to drive or operate machinery when under the influence of this product. KEEP THIS PRODUCT AWAY FROM CHILDREN. There may be health risks associated with consumption of this product. Marijuana can impair concentration, coordination, and judgment. The impairment effects of edible marijuana may be delayed by two hours or more. In case of accidental ingestion, contact poison control hotline 1-800-222-1222 or 9-1-1. This product may be illegal outside of MA.”
- Your packaging should also include the following statement, including capitalization, in at least ten-point Times New Roman, Helvetica or Arial font: “KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN.”
- If your cannabis product contains multiple servings, the following statement must be printed on the exterior of the package in a font that is no smaller than ten-point Times New Roman, Helvetica or Arial, including capitalization: “INCLUDES MULTIPLE SERVINGS.”
Discretion of Advertising
- Although your business may have a logo, make sure not to include the use of medical symbols, images of marijuana or anything related, or colloquial references to cannabis and marijuana in your brand logo.
- For brick and mortar businesses, do not install any external signage that is illuminated beyond the period of 30 minutes before sundown until closing.
- The promotion of your cannabis product should be kept discreet. This means that the following advertising methods are prohibited:
- gifts, giveaways, coupons, or “free” or “donated” cannabis products
- the use radio or loudspeakers (including when equipped on vehicles)
- unsolicited pop-up advertisements on the internet, advertisement on or in public or private vehicles and at transportation waiting areas
- advertisement of your product on the exterior or interior of any licensed premises wherein cannabis products are not regularly and usually kept for sale
- advertisement your cannabis product on clothing, cups, drink holders, apparel accessories, electronic equipment or accessories, sporting equipment, novelty items, or any other similar portable promotional items
- the mention of the price of your cannabis products in any marketing material
Summary of Cannabis Advertising Regulations
To summarize, the Cannabis Control Commission allows the sale and advertisement of cannabis in Massachusetts so long as:
- The ads are true and do not mislead consumers
- Steps are taken to ensure that the ads do not reach or appeal to anyone under the age of 21
- The ads include all the necessarily Commission-approved warnings
- The ads comply with specific provisions aimed at keeping cannabis promotion discreet
We’ll Help You Navigate These Complex Waters
At Cannabis Creative, our team has decades of experience and we can help grow your cannabis or CBD brand. Invest in the right digital marketing partner for your cannabis brand to ensure that your company adheres to cannabis marketing regulations and continues to grow or you will find yourself continuously trying to get out of “google or facebook jail”.
We’ll help you strategize, implement, monitor, manage, and track digital marketing campaigns. Our ad strategies boost awareness and drive acquisition by reaching potential customers where they most frequently are—scrolling through their email, social feeds, or search results.