The CULTA Blog

What’s Legal (and Not Legal) In CBD Marketing

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As the demand for cannabidiol, or CBD, continues to rise, businesses are rushing to capitalize. CBD is one of the main cannabinoids extracted from the cannabis plant and is known for its numerous medical and therapeutic benefits. And as a bonus, it’s non-psychoactive.

CBD advocates claim that CBD is effective for treating anxiety and depression, relieving stress, preventing diabetes, mitigating pain, and more. In the United States, CBD products were officially legalized in the 2018 Farm Bill, which effectively meant that hemp-derived CBD could be sold anywhere in the U.S. Despite this, responsible marketers are finding it difficult to advertise CBD effectively, especially online.

The Legal History of CBD

To understand how best to legally market CBD, it’s good to understand the recent legal history of CBD. As was previously mentioned, the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp-derived CBD products in the United States. Unfortunately, beyond that, it didn’t do much to clarify the legality of the sales and marketing. Instead, those decisions were left up to the individual states to determine.

The 2018 Farm Bill specifically removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, which means that only CBD derived from plants that contain no more than 0.3 percent THC is legal and regulatable by the FDA. Currently, 33 states plus Washington D.C. have legalized cannabis for medical or recreational use, while the remaining 17 have all passed laws allowing the use of CBD extract, usually in oil form.

Before proceeding with any CBD marketing campaign, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the details of the cannabis and CBD laws in the states where you plan to operate.

What’s Legal and Illegal in CBD Marketing?

Selling and marketing CBD is legal throughout the United States, with varying restrictions from the states as well as the FDA. As of July 2020, these restrictions include:

  1. CBD cannot be sold as a dietary supplement.
  2. CBD products cannot claim to prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure serious diseases.
  3. It is not legal to sell food to which CBD has been added.

The FDA notes that cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to premarket approval by the FDA, and CBD is not among the ingredients prohibited or restricted by regulation. In short, it’s important to not make any statements about CBD products that are scientifically unproven and unsupported by the FDA. These rules generally apply to marketing CBD, and should be followed if your CBD business uses traditional marketing, digital marketing, or both.

Note: Laws and regulations surrounding CBD are constantly changing. Please refer to the most recent regulations on the FDA’s website before proceeding with a marketing campaign.

The Challenges of CBD Digital Marketing

Unfortunately, the two largest online marketing platforms, Facebook and Google, still have rules in place which totally prohibit marketers from advertising CBD in paid ads. Although some marketers have tried, qualifiers like “hemp-derived” and “non-psychoactive” do not affect the platforms’ prohibition. Additionally, marketplaces like Amazon have prohibited the sale of CBD products semi-effectively. While it is possible for marketers to get ads with CBD products live, they are subject to disapproval or removal.

Until these platforms update their policies, they remain an inconsistent and unreliable way to market CBD online. Several other social media platforms that serve ads have similar policies, especially if the target market skews young. If you want to be successful in marketing CBD products online, you have to utilize other tools. These include programmatic advertising, organic search, influencer marketing, and affiliate marketing.

Programmatic Advertising

Several digital advertising programs, such as The Trade Desk, allow programmatic CBD ads. These platforms typically offer a wide variety of advertising options, including display, mobile, TV, and digital audio. These platforms also allow you to set your campaign parameters, which allow you to control who sees your ads and where they are served.

It’s important to remember that your ad creative and parameters should be set according to the local laws. Violating those laws and guidelines may result in the removal of your ads.

Organic Search

Although Google doesn’t offer reliable keyword search volume information about CBD terms, you can still rank well for valuable, traffic-driving terms. A good strategy would be to raise brand awareness through programmatic ads and then capitalize on those terms in organic search.

Influencer Marketing

You can establish a presence on the social media platforms that don’t allow you to advertise by taking advantage of influencer marketing. By allowing CBD brands to bypass the advertising restrictions on the platforms, influencer marketing allows brands to connect with the highly engaged audiences that influencers have cultivated. Influencer marketing comes with its own set of specific rules and it’s important to make sure those are followed.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliates work similarly to influencers, although they are not necessarily limited to social media platforms. Affiliates receive a commission, or percentage of the profits generated by the traffic they generate and are typically members of large affiliate networks. Many of the large affiliate networks do not prohibit advertising CBD, making them a great legal resource.

Pay Attention to Your State’s Guidelines

The best way to ensure that your CBD marketing campaigns are legal and effective is to make sure to familiarize yourself with the specific laws in the states where you’re advertising. Once you’ve established a marketing strategy that follows all applicable laws, make sure to follow the guidelines set out by each individual marketing platform.