Marketing issues create problems for the marijuana industry

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Federal restrictions make it difficult to produce mainstream marijuana marketing material

Marijuana companies are drug dealers – even the legal ones. This is, in essence, the view of the federal government, which still keeps the industry from expanding through federal restrictions. Not only have federal guidelines kept cannabis companies from being able to bank, but they’re also preventing them from creating proper marketing plans in order to build national brands and show off their goods to mainstream consumers.

The federal government isn’t the only obstacle, though. Facebook and Google prohibit marijuana ads and Instagram pulls virtually anything that represents – or even almost represents – cannabis, the cannabis flower, marijuana or any mention of anything even remotely connected to the industry. CBS, one of the oldest broadcasting companies in the U.S., is also prohibiting an ad meant to serve as a public service educational message.

The prohibitions are due, in great part, to a single word – stigma. As CMW Media’s Kyle Porter explains, “The public has a stigmatized view of the product but legitimate business owners can’t reach them — it creates mistrust. We’re really limited in how we can reach customers.”

As a result, cannabis companies have to be more creative in order to market their products and services. Many will hold education events that are manned by budtenders to help direct the conversation a certain way. The branding chief for Caliva, Rosie Rothrock, states, “Our hands are really tied from a marketing perspective. So we rely heavily on those relationships.”

Some media channels have been a little more receptive. It’s possible to advertise on Howard Stern’s Sirius channel and Conde Nast accepts marijuana ads in its print magazine. However, there is still a long way to go before the stigma is completely removed. Unfortunately, the best way to remove that stigma is exactly what is preventing it from being erased – marketing.