Whether you’re just starting your CBD business, or you’ve already launched, you may be concerned about the legal issues surrounding this burgeoning industry.
First off, know that you’re not alone. Market researchers believe the CBD (cannabidiol) industry will grow to $22 billion by 2022, having already rocketed up to $591 million in 2018. For reference, this industry was virtually non-existent just a few short years ago.
CBD is legal to sell at the federal level as long as it meets certain requirements — it must be derived from hemp, not marijuana, for example. But advertising your CBD products is much trickier.
While you have little chance of getting into any kind of legal trouble by advertising CBD products, you may have a hard time finding platforms (social media, publications, etc.) that will support your ads. That’s because the platforms themselves are concerned about the legal implications of CBD advertising. They are held responsible for their content, so they take all the risk in posting such ads.
Likely, your CBD advertising won’t give you the same results as ads placed by businesses in more mainstream industries. That’s why you should also back up your paid ads with a comprehensive inbound marketing campaign.
This guide will give you the details on how to navigate this landscape.
Following State and Federal CBD Laws
CBD is still in a legal gray area. At the time of this writing, 47 states allow the sale of CBD products in some form, but they have a strict definition of what CBD is and which products must be labeled a drug.
You can see a state-by-state chart of the country’s various cannabis programs on the National Conference of State Legislatures website, including the names of laws that may affect you. For example, here’s the listing for California:
Most important is the distinction between CBD derived from hemp and CBD derived from marijuana. Because hemp presents only trace amounts of the psychoactive chemical Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it is considered legal in most circumstances. Marijuana, made from the leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant, is still classified as a drug and isn’t legal in every state (yet).
States and the federal government generally regulate cannabis products based on their quantity of THC. Legal hemp products, including CBD, must have no more than 0.3% of THC present to be considered legal, although this percentage may be lower in some states.
Additionally, the FDA has heightened its concern about CBD products due to the number of erroneous claims made by some producers implying that CBD products have distinct medical benefits. At present, many of the medical benefits of CBD oils, salves, and other products have not been scientifically proven, at least not to the point where they are accepted by the federal government.
At the time of this writing, there is only one drug comprised of an active ingredient derived from marijuana to treat illnesses. Epidiolex (cannabidiol) is an oral solution used to treat epilepsy. Dronabinol, a synthetic cannabinoid, is used to treat nausea and vomiting, but it is man-made and not actually a cannabis derivative.
Even if you believe your products do have medical benefits, do not make medical claims in your advertising. Use generalized claims or testimonials, and back up any claims with evidence from reliable sources.
CBD Advertising on Social Media
Since you’ll be selling your CBD products mostly to consumers, it’s natural for you to want to advertise on social media.
Facebook alone has 2.5 billion people using at least one of its apps, and platforms like Twitter and Instagram are still immensely popular.
Unfortunately, all the major platforms have policies that ban the advertisement of cannabis products, including CBD products. There are a few things you can try to get around these policies. But, for the most part, you won’t be able to deploy ads for CBD products.
Here’s how the three major platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram, approach CBD.
Facebook CBD Advertising
Facebook forbids advertisements which depict drugs and drug-related products, including CBD. Pipes and other paraphernalia are also included in their ban.
This, however, does not mean you are barred from advertising on Facebook just because you are a CBD company (although you may have trouble if CBD is in your brand name or you use cannabis imagery in your logo). Facebook’s policies apply only to the content of your ads.
If you can get creative with your ads, you may be able to get your ads accepted. For example, depictions of people on your team, acceptable stock photography, and language that doesn’t imply that you sell CBD products may all be accepted by Facebook.
Here’s an example of something that might work:
(Source: Living With Pain on Facebook)
Nonetheless, your ads may not be very effective if you can’t advertise the very product you sell.
Keep in mind that these policies only apply to Facebook’s ads. You should have no problem creating a business page and posting organically to the platform — just stay aware of their policies regarding user content.
Twitter CBD Advertising
Twitter also has strict rules regarding its advertisements. For example, the platform does not allow the following in any of its ads:
- Drug dispensaries
- Depictions of hard drug use
- Accessories associated with drug use (paraphernalia)
- Illegal drugs
- Herbal and recreational drugs
The ban on advertisements for “herbal” drugs or supplements all but eliminates any chance of CBD companies advertising on the platform.
However, you should have no problem posting organically to Twitter to promote your business. You may also try to get around this policy by being creative, but you may run into the same issues as you would on Facebook.
Instagram CBD Advertising
Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012, so all the ad policies that apply to Facebook apply to Instagram as well.
Snapchat CBD Advertising
In its advertising policies, Snap Inc. prohibits ads that “depict drug use or excessive drinking.” Ads for pharmaceutical and healthcare products can only promote “those products or services that have been approved by the local regulatory authorities in each of the countries targeted.”
For the most part, Snapchat will not allow any type of cannabis advertisements to run on the platform. However, you should be able to post organically.
Reddit CBD Advertising
Reddit does not currently allow ads for CBD products:
Sec. II.3 states the following: “Advertisers may not use the Platform to promote the use or sale of hazardous, dangerous, or injurious products or services, including products subject to consumer recalls, explosive materials or fireworks, recreational drugs or substances, weapons, guns, ammunition, explosives, tobacco products, and related products or services.”
CBD Advertising on Google
Aside from the major social media platforms, there’s no more powerful advertising hub than the king of search, Google. Google still controls 37.2% of the digital ad market despite some recent gains by Amazon and Facebook.
Unfortunately, Google doesn’t allow the advertisement of CBD products, either. In fact, unlike other platforms, Google lists CBD specifically in their list of banned products:
CBD Advertising in Publications
The one area where you may have luck advertising your CBD products is in specific publications, both online and in print. Each publication sets their own advertising policy, and it’s a safe bet that cannabis-friendly magazines like High Times and Cannabis Culture won’t bat an eye at your advertisement.
Other publications may be receptive to your ads as well.
You may have to reach out to each publication individually to place an ad, however. This can be a time-consuming process. But since most of these publications already have a baked-in audience, you could still see significant returns on your investment.
Marketing Your CBD Products
While “marketing” is often used as a catch-all phrase to refer to advertising, branding, PR campaigns, etc., inbound marketing and digital marketing are distinct from paid advertising, and they should be an essential part of your CBD sales and marketing strategy.
The two most important marketing strategies in the CBD space are content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO).
Searches for cannabis and CBD products have spiked due to recent changes in state cannabis laws, public interest, and because of the mounting evidence that CBD provides numerous health benefits. The public is hungry for information about CBD, so they’re turning to Google and other search engines to find it.
If you run a company that sells CBD products, you have a unique opportunity to take advantage of this jump in public interest. You should research the keywords your customers are searching and build out content to address their search queries.
For example, we did our own research into CBD keywords and started generating a list:
You may need special tools to get this information, but you can also use Google’s Keyword Planner if you have Google Ads account.
Once you have a running list of keywords, use them to inform the types of blog and web content you produce. Make sure you’re posting content regularly, so your audience always has something new to look at. Search engines also prioritize websites that are updated frequently.
In addition to keywords, focus on generating backlinks to your website. Backlinks tell search engines that your website is authoritative and worth listing in search results.
The best backlinking strategy is to create helpful, informative content that people want to share and link to. However, you can also consider some of these strategies:
- Guest blogging for relevant websites and publications
- Asking customers or other bloggers to review your product
- Creating unique resources or tools that people want to link to
- Writing press releases
- Listing your business in directories
Remember, you only want quality backlinks from reputable sources, and you should prioritize websites that are relevant to your own.
Get Help with Your CBD Marketing and Advertising
Consider backing up your content and SEO strategy with social media marketing. Although most platforms will ban advertisements for CBD, you usually have the freedom to post about CBD, just as long as you don’t violate any user guidelines.
Create an email newsletter to keep your customers informed about the latest developments at your company. You can also share your most recent content.
Naturally, many of these marketing tactics can be difficult. If you have a brand-new CBD business, you may not know where to start.