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 (Portland, OR)?
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 anything else I desire to market my I-502-liecensed 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.