In the cannabis world, responsible marketing is more than the right thing to do -- it's also essential to the success of the industry. It's difficult to think of an emerging business sector that’s as vulnerable to swings in public opinion as cannabis. Given that, the ways in which cannabis businesses market themselves to the public is as much about building momentum for a movement as it is about finding new customers. To illustrate that point, the graph below shows two lines that measure the percentage of people who think marijuana should be illegal and people who think marijuana should be legal over time. The good news is those lines have crossed and there are now more people who believe marijuana should be legal.


But it's equally important to note that in the late 1970’s those lines also started to move toward each other -- and then moved away. The point is that the recent shift towards favoring legal cannabis does not guarantee it will stay that way. Closely managing the public face of cannabis will be key to currying support for legalization.

To help guide your business and marketing decisions, the National Cannabis Industry Association convened a panel of branding and marketing experts at the Cannabis Business Summit to give practical advice for anyone looking to advertise effectively and responsibly.

You can watch the whole presentation above, download the powerpoint slides, or just look at the key takeaways below:

Seek out new markets. You can't rely on your existing customers if you want to grow. You have to expand your customer base. The panel recommends thinking about women, senior citizens, health care professionals. These groups represent incredible potential for the industry that many businesses are not targeting with their marketing. At the very least, don't actively repel these customers in your marketing effort.

Protect the medical credibility of cannabis. At its core, this is a medical business. Cannabis is positively changing patients lives across the country. Irresponsible marketing will undermine the medical argument.

Don’t market to children. No explanation needed.

Don’t alienate 50% of the population with sexist marketing. Women are not decorative. They are customers, who are more prone to chronic illness, more likely to make health care decisions for their families, and more willing to try alternative forms of medicine. Despite those facts, women make up only 34% of the medical registry in Colorado.

Finally, at the end of the day what's important is not how you see your company, it’s how your customers see you. What they see is who you are.

If you found this article helpful and want to learn more, please consider attending the branding, regulation, and retail track of the upcoming Infused Products and Extraction Symposium being held in Denver October 28-30. Register today at