Aug 2023

Cannabis Ad Guidelines: The Intersection Of Cannabis and Media Law

Media law is often challenged because of its fast-moving nature. New technologies like AI threaten copyright protections, complaints of “censorship” abound in online communities, and it seems that cries of free expression versus defamation are popping up everywhere in social media. It’s a tense space where the general public has a loose—and sometimes misguided—understanding of precisely what is protected and what isn’t.

Into this fraught legal environment enters the cannabis industry—one that is already a lightning rod of strong feelings and opinions. As cannabis businesses sprout up across states where the product has been legalized, so, too, have efforts to stand out in a busy market. Cannabis marketing is upon us. And creating brands and voices for those brands is now part of establishing and running a successful cannabis business.

And now, the industry is getting some guidance. The Cannabis Media Council has recently released new advertising guidelines for cannabis across all media. This comes as cannabis ads will be legal for the first time, and the marijuana industry grows steadily in the recreational space in 23 states.

With this legalization comes the ability to advertise. But the industry has unique challenges to how businesses want to present themselves. And those challenges straddle the worlds of the cannabis business and media law.

The Guidelines

In the 88-page report “Full Spectrum: Guidelines for Responsible Use,” the Cannabis Media Council delineates the guidelines for advertising across all media. This report is the starting point. The guide will be updated every year. But since this is the first year, these new guidelines go a long way towards creating the template for how cannabis will likely be advertised in the coming years. The guidelines identify seven core pillars to which the advertising should adhere:

  • Advertising by legal operators is informative and helps drive access to regulated products and businesses.
  • Advertising strictly complies with all governing regulations.
  • Adult-use advertising be intentionally created for and shared with consumers of legal age.
  • That medical-use advertising be developed with dignity and targeted to audiences who likely qualify for the state’s medical program.
  • Advertising represents the diverse cultures and experiences connected to the plant and products.
  • Advertising to illuminate and elevate the industry through established creativity and communication best practices.
  • Advertising be green

The guidelines provide a blueprint for advertising for businesses that have only recently become legal. That means the guidelines perform the heavy lifting of staying on the friendly side of media law.


These guidelines are created to provide guidelines to professionals in an industry that is new to advertising. But they’re also doing the job of bringing cannabis advertising into the mainstream. And the Cannabis Media Council, mindful of media law, is helping to create the framework.

The council encourages that advertising complies “strictly” with “all governing regulations.” Something that walks clearly on the right side of media law compliance. It also demonstrates respect for medical authority, suggesting that “medical-use advertising” be developed “with dignity.” These calls for respect, collaboration, and compliance position the marketing of the burgeoning cannabis industry squarely in the compliant category, signaling that advertising work in this field will be done safely within the confines of responsible advertising.


Part of legitimizing cannabis as a product and industry is adhering to the law. And that’s what these guidelines seek to do. They establish rules that keep advertisers safely in the world of censorship-proof advertising. They are without reproach. It insists on “adult-use advertising” that targets only “consumers of legal age.” It mentions strict compliance with legal requirements, appeals to authority, and respect for the audience. This tact helps the cannabis industry make inroads into the world of respect and legitimacy—something it may need to be mindful of for a generation.

The Cannabis Media Council media guide introduces an already booming industry into a new world of advertising. But it does something more interesting, too. It walks the fine line of media law to help the growing cannabis industry tread on firm legal ground.

For more information about cannabis law at the intersection of media law, contact Carrie Ward at (856) 354-7700 or