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Is your cannabis brand ready for decriminalization? 4 good reasons to prepare now.

According to recent reports, the Drug Enforcement Administration plans to decide whether marijuana should rescheduled under federal law in “the first half of 2016,” the agency said in a letter to senators. Currently, cannabis is listed as a Schedule 1 drug (no accepted medicinal use) on the DEA list of controlled substances, alongside heroin, and that single distinction is what makes cannabis federally illegal. Just last month the DEA sanctioned a research study to test the medicinal use of smoking cannabis for veterans with PTSD. In order to dedicate federal funding to research of medical cannabis, the DEA will need to admit that there is a possible medicinal use by rescheduling from a Schedule 1, to Schedule 2 or 3, lessening federal enforcement of cannabis.

"This will impact the cannabis industry in several key ways, most importantly in banking, but for smart brands this could be the largest surge in national advertising in generations; A "Mad Men-esque" era for cannabis." -Jessica Ivey, CEO of Fire Creative Branding

Today, cannabis brands in legal states have extremely limited access to media channels for advertising due to federal agency oversight. If rescheduling happened tomorrow, would your brand be ready with a strategy to respond? Developing stock images and ad creative to launch media ad campaigns can prepare you to be ready with a thoughtful approach.

Here's how top brands will look to leverage mainstream media exposure nationwide:

1. Social Media

Policies that limit advertising for "illegal substances" would need review, opening up optimized ad space to target the 21+ audience for Google ads, Facebook, Instagram, among others. Several social media platforms have shut down cannabis companies' pages recently, which left a bad taste in the mouth for some cannabis business owners. Giants like Facebook might be hedging that cannabis industry ad revenue will return once federal decriminalization.

2. Broadcast Media

The only barrier to seeing and hearing cannabis commercials on radio and tv, is the Federal Communications Commission's oversight of policy regarding marketing and advertising. Until the FCC imposes a new policy that includes cannabis, there will be a brief time when regulation for warnings, time placement, and content for cannabis ads will not exist, but the uncharted opportunity will be available for cannabis brands.

3. Streaming Media

Music applications like Pandora and streaming channels like Netflix will likely ready to change their minds about cannabis advertising. Additionally, streaming podcasts will be able to integrate audio ads into their programs.

4. Geo-targeting

This is currently limited, but available to cannabis brands. Used as a tool to attract nearby customers directly from their smart phone device, this is an effective tool for growers and retailers to reach their target demographic with measured return on investment.

When and if the floodgates open for media advertising, it will be an historic, unprecedented time for our generation. It's important to remember to follow your state's advertising laws and guidelines, and not to expect that the media outlet to guide you on compliance. Clever ad campaigns have an opportunity to change perceptions and stereotypes, while also elevating the industry, so seek professional help.

Multiple sales calls by media outlets can be overwhelming. Having an experienced agency help to target your audience, negotiate rates, and provide ad creative to media specification will be crucial to keeping advertising budgets in check.

In an election year, anything can happen at the federal level, but it is promising that presidential candidates on both sides have shown support for medical research for cannabis. With potential tax revenue to states in the billions, if the DEA reschedules this summer, the cannabis legalization movement might pick up momentum across states this election cycle.

To get your brand ready, contact our cannabis brand experts at 206.251.7581

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