Marijuana marketing amid conflicting regulations

Andrea Quiruz
Published 2:10 p.m. PT Feb. 20, 2018


Four Reno dispensaries begin sales of recreational marijuana.
Jason Bean

NCET helps you explore business and technology

At 12:01 a.m. on July 1, 2017, the doors of several marijuana dispensaries opened to eager patrons, both novice and experienced, yet excited to legally purchase cannabis in Nevada. Since then, local dispensaries have tried their hand at clever and innovative marketing tactics aimed at recruiting individuals from a variety of demographics.

From their logo designs to their long-term marketing objectives including identifying their ideal consumer, advertisers have had to get creative. Not only do they face a burgeoning market with a recreational commodity new to the consumer, they must abide by the strict constraints brought on by government regulation.

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These regulations, both state and federal, have affected several steps in the traditional marketing process. Below are just a few marketing elements to consider if you are, or plan to be, in the cannabis industry.

The Controlled Substances Act

According to, section 843 of this act prohibits communications facilities from advertising Schedule 1 drugs. Failure to abide by this law could result in felony charges. While the legalities regarding weed advertisements are muddy and fluid for fear of losing FCC licensing, you likely won’t be seeing broadcasters airing TV ads featuring your favorite edibles.

You’d think that the next viable option would be through social media platforms; you’d be wrong. In 2017, Facebook’s advertising policy stated that it won’t allow ads that “constitute, facilitate or promote illegal products, services, or activities.” Due to its federal illegality, marijuana still fits this criterion.

Notably, marijuana packaging is also regulated to enforce childproof packaging and to prohibit marketing to underage youth.

Trademarks – Protecting cannabis collateral

A great article written by Matt Francis and Michael Rounds debuted in the Northern Nevada Law Journal entitled “Trademarking pot in Nevada.” The authors expertly highlight the legal challenges cannabis companies face in terms of protecting their intellectual property.

Unfortunately, due to conflicting federal and state laws, many Nevada-based marijuana companies are unable to obtain federal trademark registration for their brand elements, products and strains.

Trends in the industry

Regardless of the convoluted climate marijuana marketers face, branding these businesses has blossomed into a new frontier activity for agencies and advertisers. Aside from what you’d traditionally consider for a marijuana brand – varying shades of dark green pot leaves targeting traditional “stoners” – these companies have taken on a variety of colors and concepts.

Whether it’s vibrant blues and seafoam greens tied into an elegant logo, or unique, tailored messaging highlighting marijuana as part of a wellness routine, the content paired with thoughtful imagery targets unconventional consumers such as soccer moms, outdoor enthusiasts and more.

Learn more about challenges our local pot industry faces at NCET’s Special Event Luncheon on Feb. 28 featuring a panel of industry leaders. NCET is a member-supported nonprofit organization that produces educational and networking events to help people explore business and technology. Register for the event and get more info at

Andrea Quiruz is the marketing director at the Barracuda Championship ( and VP of special events for NCET.

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