Last week, Maryland’s body of cannabis policymakers, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, unanimously decided to place multiple rigid regulations on advertisements for cannabis products and services. While the regulations are called “restrictions” in the official ruling, there are so many that the state has effectively banned all forms of advertising for anything related to medical cannabis consumption.
The New Rules
According to the new rules, those involved in Maryland’s medical cannabis industry are in a bind when it comes to getting the word out about their products and services. Here are all the channels through which medical marijuana may not be advertised:
- Radio or television
- Public property
- Print publications, like newspapers or magazines, “unless at least 85 percent of the audience is reasonably expected to be 18 years of age or older, as determined by reliable and current audience composition data”
- Literature or flyers “directly handed, deposited, [or] fastened on public property or private property without the consent of the owner”
So what’s left if you can’t advertise your business in your local newspaper or radio station, and can’t spring for a billboard? Some might suggest the Almighty Internet. Not so fast. The new rules also prohibits “any website, mobile application, social media or other electronic communication that fails to employ a neutral age-screening mechanism that the user is at least 18 years of age.”
Where Does This Leave Medical Cannabis Businesses?
Maryland’s primary objective in passing these advertising restrictions is likely to protect children and impressionable youths from seeing cannabis, and by extension, shielding them from wanting to actually purchase the products. Out of sight, out of mind, right? But what these restrictions actually do is make it virtually impossible for legal and licensed business owners to spread the word about their goods and services.
Leaning on social media campaigns could be an option…but social media channels have been known to block and remove canna-centric pages and channels.
And it’s not only medical cannabis companies who will take a hit. Patients who rely on the herb may not have as much access to information about all the different products, companies, and services that could help them. For those suffering from chronic and debilitating conditions, access to reliable information and services could be a matter of life and death.
In a country where advertisements for prescription drugs like Zoloft, Viagra, and Movantik (for opioid-induced constipation), are not only legal but acceptable despite the myriad side effects and complications that comes with them (including dependency and death), it seems hypocritical that lawmakers should draw the line at medical cannabis.