Frequently Asked Questions About I-502 Advertising

Disclaimer: There are restrictions in both law and rule that restrict certain marijuana-related advertising. This FAQ is intended to provide licensees with general guidance in regards to advertising. You may need to contact legal representation if you need further assistance.

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Advertising Rules

WAC 314-55-155: Advertising

  1. Advertising by retail licensees. The board limits each retail licensed premises to one sign identifying the retail outlet by the licensee's business name or trade name that is affixed or hanging in the windows or on the outside of the premises that is visible to the general public from the public right of way. The size of the sign is limited to 1,600 square inches.
     
  2. General. All marijuana advertising and labels of useable marijuana and marijuana-infused products sold in the state of Washington may not contain any statement, or illustration that:
    1. Is false or misleading;
    2. Promotes over consumption;
    3. Represents the use of marijuana has curative or therapeutic effects;
    4. Depicts a child or other person under legal age to consume marijuana, or includes:
      • Objects, such as toys, characters, or cartoon characters suggesting the presence of a child, or any other depiction designed in any manner to be especially appealing to children or other persons under legal age to consume marijuana; or
      • Is designed in any manner that would be especially appealing to children or other persons under twenty-one years of age.
         
  3. No licensed marijuana producer, processor, or retailer shall place or maintain, or cause to be placed or maintained, an advertisement of marijuana, usable marijuana, or a marijuana-infused product in any form or through any medium whatsoever:
    1. Within one thousand feet of the perimeter of a school grounds, playground, recreation center or facility, child care center, public park, library, or a game arcade admission to which it is not restricted to persons aged twenty-one years or older;
    2. On or in a public transit vehicle or public transit shelter; or
    3. On or in a publicly owned or operated property.
       
  4. Giveaways, coupons, and distribution of branded merchandise are banned.
     
  5. All advertising must contain the following warnings:
    1. "This product has intoxicating effects and may be habit forming.";
    2. "Marijuana can impair concentration, coordination, and judgment. Do not operate a vehicle or machinery under the influence of this drug.";
    3. "There may be health risks associated with consumption of this product."; and
    4. "For use only by adults twenty-one and older. Keep out of the reach of children."
       

Online Advertising

May I have a website to promote my company? Are there any limitations on a company website?
Yes you may have a website to advertise your business. However, the law does not allow a business to use a website to sell marijuana/marijuana products. All recreational marijuana sales must take place at a licensed marijuana premises.

Can I use social media to promote my business?
Yes. Please use social media with caution and be mindful not to appeal to, or solicit, viewers under the age of 21. If possible, please restrict views to adults age 21 and older.

Will I be able to use online advertising options like Google AdWords or advertising links within websites to promote my marijuana business?
Yes.

May I hire an online advertising company to promote my business through blog posts and other online options like videos?
Yes.

Is there a limit to what may be shared on Social Media channels for product marketing?
All marijuana advertising and labels of useable marijuana and marijuana-infused products sold in the state of Washington may not contain any statement, or illustration that:

  1. Is false or misleading;
  2. Promotes over consumption;
  3. Represents the use of marijuana has curative or therapeutic effects;
  4. Depicts a child or other person under legal age to consume marijuana, or includes:
    • Objects, such as toys, characters, or cartoon characters suggesting the presence of a child, or any other depiction designed in any manner to be especially appealing to children or other persons under legal age to consume marijuana; or
    • Is designed in any manner that would be especially appealing to children or other persons under twenty-one years of age.

If one doesn't have any stake or connection to a marijuana license of any kind, is it acceptable to create a website that reviews marijuana businesses?
Yes.

If such a site is acceptable, is it OK to accept advertising revenue from marijuana businesses / display sponsored ads or messages from marijuana businesses on the website?
Yes.

May I advertise online with a retail marijuana-finder service?
Yes.

Am I able to produce a YouTube page with comedy commercials promoting my marijuana business?
Yes. Please use social media with caution and to be mindful not to appeal to, or solicit, viewers under the age of 21. If possible, please restrict views to adults age 21 and older.

Am I able to have a mascot in the YouTube commercial?
Yes, as long as the mascot is not a cartoon character or is appealing to children.
 

Traditional Advertising

May I set up a separate business to promote my marijuana retail store?
Yes. That would be allowed if the business is used to sell t-shirts, hats etc. Those items, however, could not be sold within your retail marijuana store.

May we put flyers in the customers' bags?
Yes, as long as your flyers meet the requirements for advertising set forth in WAC 314-55-155.

May our shopping bags have our name and/or logo on them?
Yes.

May I utilize provocatively-dressed models, costumed characters, and/or sign twirlers to advertise my business?
You need to check with your city/local authority to see if there are any ordinances that prevent the use of this type of advertising. Costumed characters would have to conform to WAC 314-55-155.

May news media feature stories about my company?
Yes. They frequently do.

Will a responsible adult promoted "gift with purchase" be acceptable? Example would be "stash sack" for first time purchase and only so many given out.
No. This violates WAC 314-55-155 (4).

May I advertise for cannabis on the radio and TV?
The law states that licensed marijuana producers, processors and retailers “may not advertise marijuana or marijuana-infused products in any form through any medium whatsoever within one-thousand feet of the perimeter of a school ground, playground, recreation center or facility, child care center, public park or library, or any game arcade admission to which is not restricted to persons aged twenty-one years or older.” The fine is $1,000 for each violation.

Although print media, such as newspapers, are often delivered to locations at or near schools, the LCB does not intend to enforce the 1,000’ buffer for newspaper advertising as long as the advertising does not violate other provisions of I-502.

Television and radio, of course, carry across state lines as well as places where children can see or hear. TV and radio are also regulated by the Federal Communications Commission. Licensees should consult with their attorney and media-buyer or other advertising sales representative to ensure cannabis/related advertisements are permissible.

May I advertise in cannabis-related magazines and publications?
Yes.

May I advertise in non-cannabis magazines and publications?
Yes, as long as the publications in question are not marketed towards children or people under the age of 21.

May I cross promote my business with a neighboring business (items such as glasses, t-shirts, lighters etc.)?
Yes, and vice versa.

May I advertise my business on a vinyl wrapped vehicle?
While not specifically prohibited, this is very risky. A mobile vinyl-wrapped vehicle could easily violate WAC 314-55-155 (3) which prohibits licensees from placing advertising within 1,000’ of any of the restricted areas set forth in I-502.

Are there any ad size limitations if we are able to take out an ad in an industry-related magazine?
No.

May we advertise on billboards that are at least 1,000 feet away from the restricted zones?
Yes.

May we advertise on drink coasters at bars?
Yes. The bar must be minor restricted.

Are there limitations as to the types of restrictions that local city and county jurisdictions may put on marijuana industry advertising?
Yes. Local jurisdictions may make/already have tighter advertising restrictions. It is the responsibility of the licensee to check with the local authorities and determine their requirements to ensure compliance.

May we have billboards with just our company logo that has no reference to any THC product or appeal to children as advertisement?
Yes, licensees may have off-premises signs as described above. However, licensees are limited to a single sign on the premises that is 1,600 square inches or less.

May an un-licensed third party marketing company sell to retailers? We are a licensed grower and have been approached by a marketing/advertising company who wants to "represent" growers under their brand. They claim to want to do all the marketing for a group of growers. They will sell their brand to the licensed retailer.
No. In regards to marijuana/infused products, an unlicensed party cannot be involved in the sale of marijuana. They could sell other things such as packaging and t-shirts.

May I offer tours of my production/processing facility?
Yes. Visitors must be accompanied by an employee at all times and must be in compliance with WAC 315-55-083.

May other entities advertise for us? For instance, may the city install our name on a directional sign?
That would be up to the city. However, advertising on state signs on state highways is not allowed. WAC 314-55-155 and see that subsection (3)(c) prohibits licensees from advertising “on or in a publicly-owned or operated property.” Given that the freeway signs are publicly-owned and operated property, licensees would be prohibited from having advertising on them.

May I use direct mail to households and inserts delivered via the Seattle Times and other publications?
Yes. Inserts may not contain coupons.

Are educational materials showing the differences and properties of each product within a producer’s line acceptable?
Educational materials are acceptable as long they do not make claims about marijuana’s medical or therapeutic value.

You can’t advertise on public transit vehicles/shelters or on any publicly owned or operated property. Does this include community college and university publications, premises and dorms/sorority/shared housing?
You may not advertise on community college and university publications, premises and dorms/sorority/shared housing due to a significant portion of that demographic being under the age of 21. Further, WAC 314-55-155 subsection (3)(c) prohibits licensees from advertising “on or in a publicly-owned or operated property.” 

May producers use promotional items when the item is targeted at retailers, not to the retail customer?
No. This is a violation of both the tied-house (governs financial relationships between license tiers) and giveaway provisions.

May customers register with the store for future e-mails for announcements, promotions, etc.?
Yes.

May you use wording implying just how fine your brand might be. Like, "County Gold, Washington's Best, or jingles.
Yes.

May we use a "content marketing" strategy of providing relevant information to share with potential buyers and business partners, sharing what goes into the production of our strains and products?
Yes.

What are the guidelines for advertising in other states?
Marijuana is illegal in bordering states. You would need to follow state law as it pertains to advertising illegal products.

May our delivery trucks have our brand on them?
If the delivery truck passed any of the restricted areas set forth in I-502, it would violate WAC 314-55-155 (3) which prohibit licensees from placing advertising within 1,000’ of any of the listed areas where children congregate.

May our delivery trucks distribute postcards, business cards, or other promotional materials in public places, or places frequented by youth?
No.

May I have brand names of products outside the building?
No. Retailers are restricted to a single 1,600 square inch sign advertising their trade name.

May I use mobile billboard?
If the mobile billboard passed any of the restricted areas set forth in I-502, it would violate WAC 314-55-155 (3) which prohibit licensees from placing advertising within 1,000’ of any of the listed area were children congregate.
 

Paraphernalia

May a retailer carry butane, extraction tubes, etc. to cater to those who want to do home extractions?
No. Home extractions are prohibited. The products needed to conduct extractions (butane, extraction tubes, etc.) do not meet the definition of paraphernalia and are therefore not allowed for sale in retail stores.

To augment the medical benefits of cannabis, may we sell other wellness products or supplements?
No. Recreational licensees are prohibited from advertising marijuana has curative or therapeutic effects. Other wellness products/supplements do not meet the definition of paraphernalia and are therefore not allowed for sale in retail stores

May I sell products to process cannabis into butter or oils?
No. Blenders, extractors, etc. do not meet the definition of paraphernalia and are therefore not allowed for sale in retail stores
 

Branded Merchandise

May I sell t-shirts with my company’s trade name and logo on them in my retail store?
A licensee is not permitted to sell t-shirts from their retail store or business website. A separate business is necessary to sell items beyond what is allowed under I-502.

Will branded merchandise eventually be allowed as paraphernalia?
Presently branded merchandise that meets the definition of paraphernalia such as bongs/pipes/etc. is permitted. Changes to the definition of paraphernalia would require legislation.

May I as a Producer/Processor give promotional items away like shirts and jackets to the end consumers of my products?
No. This violates WAC 314-55-155 (4).

May we develop or design products based on our LLC 502 license? T-shirts, strain development, jewelry, or pipes type stuff with company logo?
Things that meet the definition of paraphernalia would be permitted, jewelry would not.

May I sell a stash jars with an applied sticker with the name of my store and logo on it?
Yes, storage containers qualify as paraphernalia.

May I sell pipes with my store name or logo etched on them?
Yes.

May we sell t-shirts hoodies and other soft goods from our "parent" website, along with paraphernalia (within the law)?
You may sell the soft goods from the parent website. The paraphernalia must be sold from the licensed location.

In regards to branded apparel and products, does it make a difference if the items are sold or given away free? Example: May I sell a t-shirt but not give it away, or vice versa.
Neither selling nor giveaways of branded merchandise are permissible.

May we sell or give away bumper stickers to our customers?
No.

May I print up letterhead, t-shirts and/or anything else I desire to market my I-502-licensed company with our corporation emblazoned on it?
Only for employees and internal company use. You may not sell it at licensed retail stores.

Could a separate entity (separate LLC, operating close-by) sell branded merchandise?
Yes.
 

Logos

I assume that I may choose a logo that is not directly related to marijuana, such as a donkey?
Yes, but be careful that the logo does not appeal to children.

For our required retail labels, may we have our product logo on it, as long as all the required information is on the label?
Yes.

Am I prohibited from using chemical equations that speak to the product and its potency as a part of my logo?
Yes. The equation must not be misleading.

If I use a phrase from PG-13 Pop Culture from the 60's that could be a double entendre for "get high" or "being high", have I crossed a line?
Use common sense, or speak to your attorney if you are concerned about establishing your tag lines.

May I use a marijuana leaf as a part of my logo and/or fashion my company name in the form of a Marijuana leaf?
Yes.

Is an employee uniform shirt with a store logo on it considered acceptable advertising?
Yes.
 

Products

May a producer licensee purchase their own product from a state licensed retailer to give away at private events?
No. Giving marijuana away is not permissible under I-502.

How do we package our brand if we want another processor to create oil for us? E.g. renting a CO2 machine for the day.
You may rent a CO2 extraction machine however you may not “farm out” the processing. The renting party must operate the machinery.
 

Pricing

What are the rules regarding discounts for cannabis products?
You may not sell marijuana products below acquisition cost.

May producer/processor auction products?
Our rules don’t address this business situation. We recommend consulting with your attorney.

I want to provide free “mini doobies” to concert goers. However, the MJ I’m giving is not mine. It is medical marijuana that is of the same strain as those I will sell in my recreational retail store. I’ve announced this on my I-502-licensed Facebook page and website. Is this ok?
Not ok. As a licensed business, you may not give away marijuana. You may only sell taxed and tested marijuana that you purchased from a processor.

May we offer volume discounts?
Not below the cost of acquisition.

May I give away free samples of my products to customers at retail stores?
No. Giving away marijuana is still illegal.

If not, is there a minimum price that I must sell at?
You may not sell products below acquisition cost.

May I offer coupons for discounts or free samples?
No.

May I have a sale on items that are about to expire or that are not moving?
You may not sell products below acquisition cost.
 

Store Signage

May we put the name of the cannabis company on our place of business and how big can it be?
Yes. Retailers are limited to one 1,600 square inch sign.

May our sign/logo be included in the common listing board for a strip mall/professional complex? This is in addition to the one, 1,600” sign for our storefront.
That would not be considered advertising and therefore permissible.

May I have signs on the road with the business name that point to my parking lot?
Only one sign on the building is allowed on premises. If a sign is off premises, the other advertising rules apply. Road signs at the edge of a parking lot are at the discretion of the city and/or building landlord. 

May I have more than one sign if it doesn’t specifically say what I’m selling (i.e. just the name of my store on a billboard)?
No, not on the building/premises. Retailers are limited to one 1,600 square inch sign.

Can I have a window style open sign with a marijuana leaf on it?
No. RCW 69.50.357 specifically limits marijuana retailers to one 1,600 square inch sign and prohibits displaying usable marijuana and/or marijuana infused products to the public.  

What restrictions will you have regarding painting on a building? For instance, can the paint scheme include a picture of a marijuana leaf?
Painting a leaf, pipe, etc. on the building would be a violation of RCW 69.50.357.

Retailers are limited to one 1,600 square inch sign bearing their business/trade name. Does this include sandwich board signs that are used to advertise specials and events, often in the entrance of the property or on the sidewalk median?
A sandwich board would be permissible as long as it was located on the sidewalk and not located on the premises. Any sandwich board would not be allowed to display marijuana and/or marijuana infused products and need to comply with city/county code.

Can I use the window front area of the glass to display an image of a flowering plant or a graphic of a chemical composition of the plant?
No. RCW 69.50.357 specifically limits marijuana retailers to one 1,600 square inch sign and prohibits displaying usable marijuana and/or marijuana infused products to the public.

Can a retailer use the window front area of the glass to announce an adult only event or sponsored charity?
No. RCW 69.50.357 specifically limits marijuana retailers to one 1,600 square inch sign and prohibits displaying usable marijuana and/or marijuana infused products to the public.

Can a retailer use the window front area of the glass to design an appealing message in graphic design or a company tag line?
No. RCW 69.50.357 specifically limits marijuana retailers to one 1,600 square inch sign and prohibits displaying usable marijuana and/or marijuana infused products to the public.

Does the main window area of the shop have to be one solid color (or masking film) if a 502 retailer company sign is displayed elsewhere?
There is no requirement to mask or cover the windows with film; however retailers cannot display products that are visible to the public which may necessitate obscuring the windows of a building.

There is a limit of 1,600 square inches for a retail store sign. Can the 1,600 square inch sign be printed on both sides?
Retailers are limited to one sign bearing the business tradename.  There is no provision for double-sided signs which would constitute two signs.

Can my property owner place advertising on their reader board? In other words, sign on my business AND sign on strip mall reader-board at edge of parking lot?
Yes. This would be permissible if the second sign would not be located on the premises.

The frame of the sign is larger than the 1,600 sq. inches allowed by the LCB. If I were to place a heavy black border on the sign or the frame of the sign is there any way to use the existing sign and still be with in LCB’s guidelines?
Placing a border around the 1,600 square inch sign to make it fit would be allowable. Check with your enforcement officer for additional guidance.

Can the outside signage not show the company name (non-cannabis image) but the logo, hours open website address on exterior windows by front door?
No. Signs must display the business and/or trade name. RCW 69.50.357 specifically limits marijuana retailers to one 1,600 square inch sign and prohibits displaying usable marijuana and/or marijuana infused products to the public.  

Can the licensee in addition to his allowed 1,600 inch sign a place a large sign over the entrance to his retail shop that states “21 and over” or other relevant text?
Under WAC 314-55-155, the board limits each retail licensed premises to one sign identifying the retail outlet by the licensee's business name or trade name that is affixed or hanging in the windows or on the outside of the premises that is visible to the general public from the public right of way. The size of the sign is limited to sixteen hundred square inches.  WAC 314-55-086 also requires signs containing the following language conspicuously posted at each entry to the premises: “Persons under twenty-one years of age not permitted on these premises.”
 

 

Events

Will we as producer/ processor be able to enter cannabis cup or attend hemp fest type activities?
You would not be able to directly enter your product into a cannabis cup. As a licensed producer/processor your product can only be sold to another licensed entity and to gift/donate it is not allowed. There is nothing that would preclude you from attending a Hempfest type activity however you would not be allowed to have product on hand.

Under I-502 can we develop these types of yearly events our own?
You could organize these types of events but the conditions addressed in the above question would apply.

Can I have an informational booth at festivals like Hempfest or the Cannabis Cup?
Yes an informational booth is allowable but be mindful of the restrictions on advertising that are detailed in the Advertising FAQ.

May I market my business at trade events and fairs?
Yes. Many licensees already frequently attend trade events and fairs.

Are we allowed to set up a booth at a venue, for example Hemp Fest, with a company logo on it? Can we hand out product information at our booth? Does the handout info on our products have to have disclaimers on everything?
Yes, you may have a booth at Hemp Fest type activities and hand out product information. Yes the informational handouts must contain the disclaimers mandated in WAC 314-55-155.

Can we (licensed producer) sponsor a forum for local growers and retailers in eastern Washington?
Yes.

Can we throw a private 21+ event?
Yes but the licensee cannot have/provide marijuana at the event.

Can we throw an event with an alcohol / alcohol company as a sponsor?
Alcohol companies are not allowed to sponsor events. These companies can only donate product to holders of a special occasion license.

Can I offer growing workshops at my production/processing facility?
Yes, as long as the requirements for documenting/logging visitors are followed.

Can I offer growing workshops online?
Yes.

Can we use our branding to attend College Career Fairs to solicit graduating students as employees?
You may not attend career fairs held on community colleges and/or universities, premises due to a significant portion of that demographic being under the age of 21. Further, WAC 314-55-155 subsection (3)(c) prohibits licensees from advertising “on or in a publicly-owned or operated property.”

We plan on having an open house for retailers to attend to meet our growers and product. When they attend our open house, are we able to provide them food and beverages (BBQ, taco truck, etc.)?
Yes, you would be able to provide food and beverage.

 


Sponsorships

The below language covers all sponsorship-related questions.

Sponsorships are not specifically prohibited, except that sponsorships and sponsorship activity may not violate the advertising prohibitions found in WAC 314-55-155.

Marijuana advertising may not contain any statement, or illustration that is designed in any manner that would be especially appealing to children or other persons under the age of 21.

No licensed marijuana producers, processor, or retailer shall place or maintain, or cause to be placed or maintained, an advertisement of marijuana, useable marijuana, or a marijuana-infused product in any form or through any medium whatsoever:

  • Within 1,000 feet of the perimeter of a school ground, playground, recreation center or facility, child care center or facility, public park, library, or game arcade of which admission is not restricted to persons age 21 or older; or
     
  • On, or in a publicly-owned or operated property.

 


Bonus Questions

Can retailers sell gift certificates online? Either on their websites or on third-party websites like nearbyregistry.com
No. Under the law licensed retailers are only allowed to conduct sales on their licensed premises and only allowed to sell marijuana, marijuana infused products, marijuana concentrates, marijuana extracts and paraphernalia. 

Can a customer place an order via the retailer's website to reserve it for pickup (with no online sale, just the order reserve)?
No. Delivery, distribution, and sale must take place on the premises of the retail outlet to be legal under RCW 69.50.360.

Can a retailer’s logo be on the store’s windows or window coverings (not on a sign)? 
No. The law and WAC 314-55-155 limits retail businesses building signage to one sign identifying the retail outlet by the licensee's business name or trade name that is affixed or hanging in the windows or on the outside of the premises that is visible to the general public from the public right of way. There are no provisions for additional signage such as logo window coverings.

What constitutes a "flyer" that can be placed in a bag? Can it be in the form of a postcard (that can be mailed)? Or can it have a sticky back (like a sticker)?
Both of those would be permissible as long as they meet the criteria for advertisements set out in the previous FAQs.

Is there a way to educate customers on "benefits" or effects of marijuana without "making [medical] claims" that would violate the rules?
You can talk about the effects of the product without linking them to medicinal claims. Example: Uplifted, happy, energetic, creative, focused, etc.

Can a separate, non-licensed LLC offer free branded merchandise?
Please see our previous advertisement FAQ.

Can glass providers and marijuana retailers enter into a consignment agreement for paraphernalia?
Yes. As long as the glass provider is not taking a percentage of the marijuana sales, does not receive a portion of the business (ownership) and has no influence over the running of the business, they can sell on consignment, or receive part down on putting the glass in the shop and the remainder on sale. 

It’s recommended that both parties have a solid contract written up, so if questions arise both the supplier and the retailer have documentation to show it is simply a sales transaction. 

Can an I-502 licensee enter into a licensing agreement for the use of a trademark/branding held by a separate (non I-502 licensed) company?
Whether or not an I-502 licensee would be allowed to use the trademark owned by another entity is dependent on the contractual arrangement between the parties and will be determined on a case by case basis. Depending on the structure of the contract a trademark holder could be considered a true party of interest and would need to be disclosed and investigated as such.