This is a tale of two star-crossed lovers … not ol’ Romeo and Juliet. The budding love affair is between Arkansas’s cannabis cultivators and advertising.
Cultivators are eager to educate patients about cannabis, but operate in a compliance grey area – making even the most basic communications decisions muddled with confusion. Is a website okay? Can I post on social media? Is public relations okay? Is patient education considered advertising? The answers to these questions may surprise you.
Arkansas Act 928 of 2019 (now codified as Ark. Code Ann. 20-56-305) provides, among other things, that:
A cultivation facility shall not advertise through any public medium or means designed to market products to the public; and
A cultivation facility may market products directly to a dispensary by any means directed solely to the dispensary and not available to the public.
The Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Division enforces the rules governing the medical marijuana industry, including those pertaining to advertising. At present, the agency’s resources are focused largely on inspecting dispensaries, providing access to medical cannabis for patients in all corners of the state. However, prudent operators should anticipate that regulatory attention may soon turn toward advertising and marketing. We expect for ABC to roll out detailed rules that expound upon the two bullet points above. Rulemaking should provide clarity for cultivators, but in the meantime, caution is advised.
Cultivators must verify that communication and marketing tactics reach dispensaries only and ensure that communication tactics cannot get into the hands or meet the eyeballs of the public. Patient drive events cannot be sponsored by cultivators because, in this scenario, cultivators are directly communicating with members of the public about their medicine. A standard website won’t be compliant for a cultivator, but there is a complaint way to have a website. The standard use of social media is not complaint, but there are certain ways to use social media that are compliant.
Patient education remains an important responsibility of the cultivators. Mandatory testing and labeling provide clarity on the specifics of cannabis medicine sold by dispensaries, but many patients lack basic understanding needed to decipher the labels. Cultivators have the information. Dispensaries have the patients. The conduit connecting the two is a variety of compliant marketing and communication tactics.
Tactics vary business to business and should be tailor-made to meet your business goals. If you have any questions or ideas, please contact us at Bud Agency – expert cannabis communications.