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February 24, 2020

Maine reminds cannabis businesses about advertising rules

Close up of green marijuana plants File Photo / Tim Greenway “The strong month-over-month growth here in Maine, just seven months after the official launch of the industry, suggests more and more consumers are choosing the tested, tracked and well-regulated market over the illicit market," said Erik Gundersen, director of Maine’s Office of Marijuana Policy.

As it assembles the rules and business procedures for Maine’s recreational marijuana market, expected to launch in the spring, the state Office of Marijuana Policy is trying to reinforce guidelines for advertising the product.

Maine regulations for both the medical and adult recreational use of marijuana prohibit ads aimed at people under 21. But as the industry ramps up, some marijuana businesses have become more public in their promotion — for example, by recent advertising at the Androscoggin Bank Colisée in Lewiston.

On Friday, the state reminded businesses about the rules.

“OMP’s main concern and focus of this guidance is whether advertisements have a high likelihood of reaching, or are designed to appeal to, individuals less than 21 years of age,” Director Erik Gundersen wrote in a letter on the office’s website.

Advertising can’t be placed in areas, such as near schools, where those under 21 gather, he said. Marijuana businesses that advertise in the mass media must have data to show their ad buys target an age-appropriate audience.

Text marketing and location-based ads targeting mobile devices are banned, unless the ads use an app installed by device owners who are at least 21. 

Internet marketing must also be focused on the 21-and-over crowd. Unsolicited internet ads are prohibited. Websites and social media platforms promoting pot must employ age-verification access techniques, such as those used on certain websites for liquor businesses.

However, Gundersen said OMP recognizes that the rules aren’t foolproof.

“(OMP) understands incidental exposure to individuals under 21 years of age is unavoidable,” he wrote.

“In many instances, context is going to be critical. Permissible marketing activity could be deemed impermissible depending on the audience that is likely to encounter the advertising.”

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