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How to Advertise a Cannabis Dispensary in California


With the medical usage of cannabis in full swing, and adult recreational sales scheduled to begin in a matter of weeks, California cannabis retailers are struggling with the challenge of how to advertise a cannabis dispensary effectively. 

In an effort to dissuade children from cannabis, there are some relatively tight restrictions on how dispensaries can both advertise and market themselves. Let’s take a look at 4 specific do’s and don’ts of advertising your cannabis dispensary in The Golden State. 

DON'T – Engage in dispensary marketing or advertising that could be construed as targeting minors.

California takes this extremely seriously, and most of their regulations regarding advertising and dispensary marketing seem designed to combat this issue. In fact, no matter what medium is employed, a dispensary must ensure that a significant majority of their potential audience (over 70%) be reasonably expected to be at least 21 years of age. This applies to billboards, publications, TV & radio ads, and even digital marketing efforts.

DO – Engage in old-school audience-building techniques.

Part of California’s advertising laws for cannabis mandate that dispensaries develop an age-verification process before entering into direct communication with any individual, as part of the effort to keep this material away from children. If you are already being forced to develop a ‘signup’ or ‘login’ procedure to access your content online or elsewhere, we recommend taking advantage of this by engaging in old-school audience-building techniques. Consider transforming your website from an online storefront into a forum and online meeting place for your customers and their friends.

DON’T – Use freebies to advertise you cannabis dispensary.

California explicitly prohibits the use of free cannabis along with all associated accessories in promotional activities. There is one major exception to this – the medical usage community, within which free giveaways are permitted, but are intended to be used as a method to deliver free or low-cost medical treatment to at-risk and low-income patient groups rather than as a marketing tactic.

DO – Begin building a client list ASAP, and engage in email marketing.

With the audience limitations described above, many traditional advertising and marketing activities will likely remain off-limits for cannabis dispensaries for the foreseeable future. However, the circumstances are almost perfectly suited for the usage of traditional email and list marketing techniques as a result. The earlier you begin collecting information for your list and developing nurturing programs for your marketing efforts, the better your results will be. Check out our recommended steps to building better cannabis retail promotions here.

While the limitations on advertising and marketing activities definitely create some additional challenges for dispensaries to deal with, there is certainly nothing insurmountable here. Focus on traditional audience and list-building techniques to start, and diversify your efforts from there as your list grows large enough to begin segmentation.

For more insights on the cannabis industry, including further tips on how best to market and advertise for dispensaries, subscribe to the Cova blog. 


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