Proposed Bill Would Restrict Cannabis-Branded Merch, Promos

Weed Hat

SACRAMENTO–An amended version of Senate Bill 162 passed from the Committee for Business and Professions on June 27, and now is headed to the Senate Appropriations Committee for approval.

Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) authored the bill. Legislators have cited concerns over cannabis advertising being targeted at or available to under-21 individuals.

Cannabis advocates argue that a ban on advertising will stigmatize the industry at a time when legalization is becoming established, and it will hurt small business owners’ ability to grow their brands.


SB 162 would prohibit cannabis-branded advertising on promotional merchandise (i.e. hats, T-shirts, etc.), and would also require any, “broadcast, cable, radio, print and digital communications [to] only be displayed where at least 71.6 percent of the audience is reasonably expected to be twenty-one years of age or older, as determined by reliable, up-to-date audience composition data.”

Company logo-branded promotional items could only be distributed at industry trade shows and “similar venues” with over-21 aged attendees.

The sections of the bill that pertain to promotional merchandise are as follows:

(a) Except as provided in subdivision (b), a licensee shall not advertise medical cannabis or medical cannabis products through the use of branded merchandise, including, but not limited to, clothing, hats, or other merchandise with the name or logo of the product.

(b) A licensee may distribute branded merchandise with the company’s logo, only if different from the name or logo of its product, at an industry trade show or other similar venue where the attendees are required to be 21 years of age or older.

Under SB 162, online restrictions would allow companies to maintain an informational website, but on-site advertising or sales of cannabis-related products would be prohibited. Any direct advertising by companies would require user age-verification before being allowed access to the information.

If passed into law, SB 162 would not put any limitations on non-commercial speech or nonprofit organizations.

Los Angeles-based public relations professional Kip Morrison pointed out the importance of earned media and nontraditional advertising venues for cannabis brands, which would likely become more important if SB 162 puts restrictions on traditional platforms for cannabis-related products. Brands also would be obligated to target the over-21 market.

“This is where good editorial PR comes in,” Morrison said. “PR is not advertising; it is the editorial staff proclaiming the brand’s virtues. It may read like an endorsement to the viewers or readers. This is why it has a perceived value of three times that of advertising.”

“Additionally, [Kip Morison & Assoc.] know the demographics of the media outlets’ reach, and can more closely manage the age requirement,” she said.

Having solid skills in social media, geo-targeting, SEO, and data analytics also will help to boost your brand, according to Morrison, to make sure the promotional exposure your brand is getting online is performing up to value.

“Our digital partner FieldTest takes your best press, and amplifies it to your desired demo through our content-based ad/editorial integrations,” Morrison explained.

“In addition to geo-targeting, we can capture your audience through job title, job industry, household income, gender, age, and net worth to ensure your ads are being placed directly in front of interested dispensaries, budtenders, investors and potential consumers. Daily optimization on all campaigns removes any under-performing site or metric, which guarantees your budget is always being spent in the best places.”