UN Calls for Ban on Cannabis Advertising

The cannabis industry continues to face obstacles as they try to educate people about the uses – and misuses – of marijuana. 

Their latest hurdle is the United Nations. 

Recently, a UN panel, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, called for a global ban on cannabis advertising.

UNODC research and trends analysis head Angele Me said the main reason was to make sure ads do not trick young people into thinking cannabis is a healthy choice.

A post published in MJ Biz Daily discusses the issue further. It also highlights various options that cannabis companies still have to promote their products.

The Latest News from UNODC 

UNODC released its annual World Drug Report. It says public health should take priority over the cannabis industry’s business interests. 

Figure watering a cannabis plant.

It calls for a comprehensive ban on advertising, promoting, or sponsoring. This would help limit the exposure of the drug to young people. 

Some World Drug Report Findings

The World Drug Report offers an in-depth analysis of the global drug markets. It provides details about the measurable effects of the world’s drug problem. The report aims at fostering greater international cooperation to counter the impact of drugs on health and its governance. 

The special focus is on the cannabis crisis. The report analyzes the changes in cannabis use and risk perceptions over time. The UN anticipates the challenges that may arise soon and address them head-on.

The latest estimates and trends of cannabis use show a substantial rise in marijuana products over the past few years. Long-term, heavy use of the drug can lead to mental health disorders.

Moreover, the agency noted that the strength of cannabis products has almost quadrupled in the US over the last two decades and doubled in Europe.

A greater cause for concern is that the percentage of adolescents who view marijuana as harmful has decreased nearly 40% over the past 20 years.

So the UNODC suggests that private firms and social media channels need to stop the aggressive marketing of cannabis products, especially those with high THC content.

At the moment, we don’t know how such a ban would work. But the UNODC says that it will be similar to those set by the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Furthermore, the UN does not have the power to implement or enforce any advertising ban. It can only recommend such a move to member nations.

Marijuana Businesses Face the Challenges

Now, cannabis companies are working hard to overcome marketing regulations. For the most part, traditional marketing avenues such as TV, radio, and other mainstream advertising mediums remain off-limits.

But marijuana-related business owners still have several options for getting the word out. Amy Larson, the vice president of marketing at Tilt Holdings, says there are many options for cannabis companies. They just need to find the right one.

What options do they have?

Experts suggest the following:

  • Banner ads on popular websites on the internet
  • Ads on cannabis-specific websites
  • Age-gated online video ads
  • Direct online consumer marketing such as email and text messages
  • Social media channels 
  • Partnerships with online video-streaming services
  • Local or satellite radio ads
  • Print ads in magazines or weekly newspapers
  • Direct mail through the post office
  • Billboards
  • Community events or sponsorships
  • Collaborating with other popular brands for endorsements and partnerships

These are only some new ideas on the table.

Rudy Schreier, a director at Chicago-based software firm Phyllo, recommends businesses experiment with new ideas. They will have to think outside the box and find different ways to get their brand name out in more unique, untraditional ways.

Trending Tips on CBD Products

Some Examples to Take Inspiration From

LivWell Enlightened Health

The retail chain LivWell Enlightened Health was successful in promoting its products in Denver this past April. It was able to air television ads on KUSA, a local NBC affiliate.

The company produced three 15-second ads that ran for about 3½ weeks. Chris Mapson, The company’s vice president of marketing, Mapson said this was probably the first such ad ever ran on a network TV station. He says it was an experiment and that the company currently has no plans to run more TV ads at the moment.


Another example includes Apple. The company recently updated the terms of its app store. It now allows licensed pharmacies and cannabis dispensaries, provided they’re legal (in their state​) and geogated, to use the App Store to facilitate marijuana purchases.

Larson regularly hears local radio ads for marijuana retailers on local radio stations in Denver. They usually air during the day when children are at school. 

MSO Cresco Labs

On the other hand, MSO Cresco Labs, an Illinois-based company, is pursuing video ads on multiple platforms. They are working on age-gated content to control who sees the ads, says Cory Rothschild, the company’s senior vice president of marketing. 

Some marijuana companies in Los Angeles, California, are partnering with clothing brands. For instance, they’re putting their logos and brand names on accessories to increase awareness. 

Kings Garden

Airport with large monitors for flight information.

But others in the area are doing something more unique. Kings Garden, a company in Palm Springs, struck a deal with its local airport. It now airs video ads on TV monitors at the airport baggage claim.

However, many are turning to social media, one of the biggest advertising focuses in the digital era. It provides the best return on investment on time, money, and effort. After all, it is where most of the youngsters spend their free time.

Obstacles Remain

The only states that prohibit local TV station broadcasters from displaying marijuana ads are Delaware and Montana. However, regulations vary from state to state.

So depending upon where a company is located, different cannabis brands have different marketing options.

But for the most part, traditional marketing avenues such as TV, radio, and other mainstream advertising mediums remain off-limits to marijuana businesses. This is the ideal way to protect children from any exposure to marijuana.

Yes, at the moment, it is a difficult landscape for marijuana companies. However, things are constantly changing. Some cannabis advocates see the UN’s interest in the matter as a sign that the prohibitionist body is coming to terms with the fact that the widespread legalization of the drug is inevitable.

So only time will tell what lies in store for the future of this industry.

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