California Cannabis Marketing & Promotional Guidelines


It takes time to reach and build a steady customer base, and how you advertise and market your business matters a great deal. California has marketing and promotional guidelines for cannabis businesses.

These regulations are constantly evolving to meet new changes within the legal cannabis industry. Working with a marijuana business lawyer who understands cannabis marketing and promotional rules can help you avoid missteps, violations, and even lawsuits.

McElfresh Law is familiar with cannabis marketing and promotions. If you have questions or face legal consequences from a marketing violation, call McElfresh Law at (858) 756-7107 or use the online form to set up a consultation.

California Cannabis Advertising Rules

The rules for marketing, advertising, and promoting a cannabis business are in Chapter 15 of Proposition 64, passed by the California legislature. These rules apply to all forms of marketing and advertisements, whether it’s a retail sign, Instagram post, tweet, radio ad, TV commercial, or print ad.

The following are general guidelines from the state law.

Be Truthful in Advertisements

You can’t make any false or misleading statements in your advertisements. Any claim you make must be accurate and supported by evidence. This rule applies to claims about your product as well as prices and sales.

  • Avoid false claims about the health benefits of CBD or cannabis products, such as better sleep.
  • Use examples when you have proof of medicinal benefits, such as cannabis easing long-term pain caused by cancer and other medical conditions.

Target 21+ Audience

Cannabis use is for adults 21 and over. That means your business advertising should target audiences who are of age. Based on audience research, you should be confident that around 71.6% of your audience is 21 or older.

A marijuana business lawyer can help you avoid legal pitfalls in your advertising content and design. Your ads must contain specific legal language that a lawyer can help craft. You also should avoid content and design that could attract people under 21 years old.

Courts and legislators established these rules years ago because of Big Tobacco. Now, marijuana and vape businesses face potential trouble for marketing and advertising that falls short of certain standards.

Social media such as Snapchat, TikTok, or Instagram is a great way to attract new clients. If you choose to partner with a social media influencer, make sure they are at least 21 years old. Many younger people use these apps every day and might be swayed by an underage influencer.

Location Restrictions

California won’t let you display billboards on interstates or state highways that cross the California border. Unfortunately, this encompasses many of California’s busiest roadways. If you’re interested in using a billboard to advertise, work with a California cannabis marketing lawyer to ensure that you follow all guidelines.

You cannot post signs or other advertisements within 1,000 feet of a:

  • Daycare center
  • School for kindergarten and grades one through 12
  • Playground
  • Youth center

No Freebies

You can’t give away cannabis products or accessories as part of a promotion. However, promotional items, such as magnets, visors, and water bottles, you could legally give away after checking with a marijuana business lawyer.

Include Your License Number and ID

You must identify your business as responsible for the content of all marketing and advertising. This identification includes your business name and license number that you are an approved cannabis business.

Violating California Cannabis Advertising Rules

You can face disciplinary measures if you violate cannabis marketing and advertising rules, even to the extent of losing your license to operate.

Typically, you could receive a citation and fines of up to $5,000 per violation. You will have time to correct or remove the violating promotion.

It is helpful to have a marijuana business lawyer represent you if you:

McElfresh Law helps business owners with citations, the threat of losing their license, or potential lawsuits.

Legal Representation for Lawsuits

In addition to compliance issues with state authorities, other parties could sue you for false or misleading claims or other advertising violations. A marijuana marketing attorney helps you avoid violations and grey areas. More importantly, it reduces the risk of having to defend against lawsuits.

San Diego Marijuana Advertising Rules

There are local advertising rules in addition to state guidelines. Some municipalities in California have advertising ordinances. It helps to work with a lawyer who has a comprehensive understanding of your advertising and marketing limitations.

For example, San Diego also says you can’t place a billboard for cannabis products within 1,000 feet of where minors congregate, which includes:

  • Schools
  • Playgrounds
  • Public parks with a playground
  • Daycare centers
  • Youth centers

San Diego imposes a civil fine if you violate this ordinance.

Los Angeles Cannabis Advertising Laws

Los Angeles also has cannabis and cannabis products advertising rules.

You cannot promote cannabis or cannabis products within 700 feet of the following:

  • School
  • Public park
  • Public library
  • Daycare centers
  • Alcohol or drug abuse treatment centers
  • Permanent supportive housing (with some exceptions)

LA and some other municipalities have on-site sign requirements. Talk with a lawyer about the type of signs you can place on your businesses to advertise your products and services. For example, in LA, you can’t have a digital, spinner, monument, pole, marquee, roof, moving, super graphic, or illuminated architectural canopy signs.

Federal Advertising Rules

Cannabis remains an illegal Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. Because of this, you cannot use the U.S. Postal Service to send print ads for cannabis, a cannabis business, or accessories. It’s also technically illegal to place any written ad in a newspaper, magazine, or other publications, knowing it serves the purpose of selling a Schedule I substance.

Currently, the federal government has chosen not to prosecute individuals based on these laws. Many marijuana businesses advertise in magazines and other publications. There are many cannabis-specific California-based print publications, including Cannabis Now Magazine, Edibles Magazine, Emerald Magazine, MG Magazine, and Terpenes & Testing.

However, it is unlawful to advertise a Schedule I substance in any publication. You are advised to consult an attorney if you are considering this practice.

Call McElfresh Law Today

Marketing and promoting your California cannabis business is easier when you have a lawyer who understands this unique industry. Whether you’re open for business or are rafting your business plan, work with marijuana business lawyer Jessica McElfresh.

McElfresh Law is also here to help with citations and lawsuits based on advertising violations. Call (858) 756-7107 or use our easy online form to set up a consultation.