The New Cannabis Control Commission Advertising Regulations – Will they affect Your Marketing Strategy?

Roll the clocks all the way back to 1911 and you’ll find Massachusetts as the first state to ever restrict the use of cannabis. Fast forward to 2016, and Massachusetts, once again, becomes part of history as state voters legalize the use of recreational cannabis.

New states are on the cusp of making this leap in 2021, but there’s no question that Massachusetts is at the forefront of cannabis reform, and with each day that passes, the state’s businesses and consumers continue to reduce the stigma associated with its use.

It’s true, business is booming for cannabis ventures. As choices increase for consumers, so do the marketing challenges for marijuana businesses needing to differentiate. A lack of federal legality is made more complex for marketing agencies and cannabis businesses as the state’s Cannabis Control Commission advertising regulations evolve.

Cannabis operators have been waiting for revised Massachusetts regulations for several years, hoping that the regulations will offer additional opportunities for cannabis brands to expand.

So, did the CCC deliver? Let’s find out.

Stick with us as we dive deeper into the key takeaways.

 5 Key Takeaways From the New Cannabis Control Commission Advertising Regulations

1- The Use of 2 Disclaimers When Marketing Cannabis Brands- New Ad regulations now require cannabis dispensaries to use 2 disclaimers in a ‘’word for word’’ format when marketing their products.

2- You STILL Can’t Use Your Cannabis Brand When Merchandising- No swag allowed. Dispensaries may not produce any items for sale or promotional gifts, such as T-shirts, novelty items, or cannabis stickers, bearing a symbol of or references to marijuana including the logo of the Registered Marijuana Dispensary.

3- Gone is the confusing, vague reference to “pop-up advertising on the internet”- To its credit, the CCC asked for input here, and not only eliminated this meaningless, older restriction but now allow geo-fencing mobile targeting.

4- Discretion When Advertising – As part of the Cannabis Control Commission’s advertising regulations, the promotion of your cannabis product should be kept discreet. This means that advertising through competitions, gifts, or advertisements on exteriors of any licensed premises or vehicles is prohibited.

5- Allowing of branding sponsorships at certain events, with continued prohibitions on activities that target underage participants or entrants.

Vital Warning Labels 

Circling back to using two disclaimers, the CCC (Cannabis Control Commission) states that it’s vital that any marketing or advertising created for the viewing public includes the statement “Please Consume Responsibly,” on the face of the advertisement. In addition, advertisements should also include 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 and 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.”

Age Restrictions 

Whether you use a marketing agency or you handle the advertising aspect yourself, you must ensure that at least 85% of your target audience on ads made on TV, mobile, radio, applications, social media, or the internet, in general, must be aimed at 21 years old or older. In the cannabis world, it’s known as the 85% rule. 

In addition to this, you need to also make sure that you design your website with an age-gate that verifies site visitors are over the age of 21.

Packaging 

When it comes to your cannabis packaging, it needs to be opaque, or very plainly designed, and in child-resistant containers. If you’re selling multiple servings, it should be resealable. In addition, your packaging should not be attractive to minors.

This means you can’t feature: 

  • Bright or neon colors
  • Resemble existing branded consumer products (like foods and beverages)
  • Images of minors
  • Words that refer to products that are commonly used to market to minors

Fresh Opportunities In Complex Waters

New regulations can either be looked at as daunting, or they can be taken advantage of as a fresh opportunity to pursue a more comprehensive digital marketing strategy. Here at Mass Live Media marketing agency, we like to think of it as the latter.

MassLive Media has worked with nearly 20 different cannabis brands in the development and execution of marketing strategies. We partnered with Drive Research in 2020 to conduct one of the first formal research projects on the New England cannabis consumer, debuting the findings during a keynote presentation at a national online conference. MassLive Media clients get access to this data and so much more.

Are you a cannabis brand that needs an experienced marketing partner you can trust? Reach out, and one of our digital experts will get back to you shortly.

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