There’s no place like the Big Apple when it comes to starting a business empire. In March 2021, New York State legalized adult-use cannabis and opened the doors for businesses to set up shop – and begin building theirs.
After nearly a year of industry regulatory conversations, legislation updates, and more, brands have begun to apply for and receive dispensary licenses in 2022 and beyond. As of June 2022, the state’s Cannabis Control Board approved a set of regulations related to the advertising, packaging, and labeling of legal recreational cannabis.
New York cannabis laws currently note the primary purpose of advertising as a cannabis business must be to displace the illicit market and inform the consumer of the location of licensed retail dispensaries. As such, the existing rules and regulations cover three main concerns:
- Age Restrictions
- Promote Public Health & Reduce Harm
- Discretion of Advertising
As a New York cannabis business, you should get familiar with the marketing restrictions. Align with the state’s mission to protect public health, reduce harm, and promote sustainable industry practices.
Here’s a breakdown of the New York cannabis advertising rules and regulations, outlined in Section 86 of New York Law Chapter 553 and Part 129 of The Marihuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA):
Age Restrictions for Cannabis Marketing
- Don’t design any advertising to appeal to anyone under the age of 21, including display images and audio (such as voices of children or cartoons).
- Don’t place or distribute cannabis marketing materials within 500 feet of the perimeter of school grounds, playgrounds, recreation centers, child day care providers, public parks, or libraries.
- Any television, radio, print, internet, mobile applications, social media, or other electronic and print advertising must only be published if you can obtain documented, reliable evidence that at least 90% of the audience for the advertisement is reasonably expected to be 21 years of age or older.
- Your cannabis business can sponsor a charity, sports, or similar event. But you can’t advertise their involvement unless 90% of the audience at the event is reasonably expected to be 21 years of age or older.
- Only produce branded apparel in adult sizes. Such apparel can only be sold within your licensed premises.
- Age-gate any digital advertising, including a website or digital application, to keep those under the age of 21 from engaging.
- Ensure that retail packaging is child-resistant, tamper-evident, and not designed to be attractive to individuals under 21.
Promote Public Health & Reduce Harm
- Don’t make false, deceptive, or misleading claims in your advertising. This includes using the term “organic”.
- Don’t make medical claims or promote adult-use cannabis for medical or wellness purposes. This includes assertions that cannabis or cannabis products are safe because they’re regulated by the Board or Office.
- All cannabis marketing and advertising material must include the following statement clearly on the face of the advertisement. It also must be read aloud at the same volume and pace as the rest of the advertisement:
- “For use only by adults 21 years of age and older. Keep out of reach of children and pets. In case of accidental ingestion or overconsumption, contact the National Poison Control Center hotline 1-800-222-1222 or call 9-1-1. Please consume responsibly.”
- Additionally, your cannabis marketing must include one of the following warnings in a rotating manner:
- “Cannabis may cause impairment and may be habit forming.”;
- “Cannabis can impair concentration, coordination, and judgment. Do not operate a vehicle or machinery under the influence of cannabis.”;
- “There may be health risks associated with consumption of this product.”;
- “Cannabis is not recommended for use by persons who are pregnant or nursing.”
- All warnings in print or digital advertisements must be in the English language, written in Times New Roman, Calibri, Arial, or Helvetica in bolded text no smaller than size 6 font, and in a bright yellow text box. These warnings must also be legible, unobscured, and visible to the consumer.
- The New York State HOPEline phone number, text number, and website or QR code must be included in any cannabis marketing or advertising materials, by displaying the information in visual media or by reading the information in audio media.
- Your business name and license number must be present in all product-related cannabis marketing and advertising.
- Don’t promote overconsumption, rapid consumption, product potency, or THC concentration.
- Don’t use any obscene or indecent statement, design, representation, picture, or illustration in your advertising. This includes disparaging products of another cannabis business.
- Don’t encourage the transportation of cannabis across state lines or otherwise encourage illegal activity.
- Avoid medical symbols in your branding that may lead a consumer to think your cannabis product is medicinal.
- Ensure that your product packaging isn’t made of single-use plastic unless it contains a minimum of 25% post-consumer recycled content.
Discretion of Cannabis Advertising
- Be discreet in your advertising by avoiding depictions of consumption.
- Don’t publish or distribute your cannabis marketing material in public transit vehicles, stations, parking lots, or on publicly owned and operated property.
- Outdoor signage can’t be placed in arenas, stadiums, shopping malls, fairs that receive state allocations, video game arcades, or on vehicles.
- Avoid promotions such as discounts, coupons, points-based reward systems, customer loyalty programs, or other means of selling adult-use cannabis products below market value.
- Your cannabis business can’t advertise in the form of a billboard.
- Don’t use or display colloquial references to marijuana and cannabis including depictions or digital images or icons, whether animated or static, of cannabis, cannabis products, paraphernalia, or the imagery or action of smoking or vaping, including but not limited to “stoner”, “chronic”, “weed”, “pot”, or “sticky buds”.
- Don’t use unsolicited pop-ups or banners on the internet, other than on age-restricted websites.
- Ensure that product packaging doesn’t contain:
- Brand elements beyond one brand logos and the brand name
- Pictures, images, or graphics, other than what’s required by the Office
- Any features that emit scent or sound
- Outdoor signage is permitted provided that it’s affixed to a building or permanent structure and is limited to 1600 square inches.
- Outdoor signage can’t be illuminated by neon lights. Signage can’t depict cannabis, cannabis products, or the imagery or action of smoking or vaping.
- Don’t use or create a commercial mascot.
Summary of New York Cannabis Marketing Restrictions
Although New York has legalized adult-use cannabis, much of the rules and regulations around its advertising and marketing are still being finalized. The state’s main goal aims to reduce harm and promote public health by strictly enforcing the age limit and discreet advertising restrictions.
- Do your due diligence to ensure your cannabis marketing doesn’t reach or appeal to anyone under the age of 21
- Ensure all ads are true and don’t mislead consumers
- Include all necessary warnings in an unambiguous manner on all packaging and product labeling
- Keep cannabis promotion and sale discreet