Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is a substance that has been derived from the tops, leaves, and resin of marijuana or hemp. A 2019 Gallup poll found that as much as 14% of U.S. adults are using CBD products.
As much as 20% of adults younger than 30 years old reported using CBD, while just 8% of adults aged 65 and older said they used CBD products.
Among these adults that use CBD, the most reported reasons for using these products include alleviating pain (40%), anxiety (20%), insomnia (11%), and arthritis (8%).
The Legal History Of CBD
As the demand for CBD products continues to grow, many businesses want to take advantage of the massive market share available. But before a business can go “all-in” and implement a robust market strategy that can generate profit, they must get familiar with the “legal history” of CBD.
Back in 2018, the Farm Bill withdrew hemp from the Controlled Substances Act. What this means is that only CBD that has been obtained from plants that have no more than 0.3 percent THC is both legal and “regulatable” by the FDA. So far, 33 states, and Washington D.C., have legalized the use of CBD for recreational or medical use. The remaining 17 states have passed laws that permit the use of CBD extract, in the form of oil.
Although all of these advancements are great news for CBD businesses, they must still proceed with caution and become well-versed in the CBD laws based on the states they plan to operate in.
Challenges To Marketing CBD
According to the FDA, all CBD products must adhere to all state and federal laws where applicable. The FDA has announced that it is illegal to add CBD to any food, dietary supplements, and pet foods.
But it doesn’t end there, more legal restrictions that the FDA has implemented include:
- Products with CBD cannot make claims to prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure “serious” diseases.
- CBD cannot be sold as a dietary supplement.
Marketers should not make any claims about CBD products that are “scientifically unproven” and not supported by the FDA. These restrictions also apply to marketing CBD. If your business uses traditional marketing, digital marketing, or a combination of both, you must follow these laws.
The greatest challenge is just keeping up with the rapid changes in legislation surrounding CBD products. It is wise to regularly check the FDA’s website to stay up-to-date on the most recent regulations before you proceed with your marketing campaign.
CBD Advertising Constraints By Platform
To say that CBD businesses face unique challenges is an understatement. One of their biggest obstacles is marketing their products while navigating what seems like contrary and confusing decrees put out by the “digital advertising outlets”.
The largest and most well-known social media platforms, Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, and Google have their own rules for advertising CBD. While some companies are highly restrictive, others “officially” keep CBD products at a protective distance while seeking to gain from the industry’s ad dollars.
Let’s take a look at a few platforms that officially forbid the advertising of CBD products, yet are quite loose in their enforcement.
Facebook has classified CBD as a “drug” or “unsafe substance”. It falls under point number five in its list of Prohibited Content. However, in 2019, Facebook seemed to have loosened up on the rules. Back then, CBD companies were allowed to advertise it only if they did not mention “CDB” within the ad. This includes any links, images, videos, and landing pages.
In 2021, Facebook alleviated the rules further by allowing “hemp-based topical products”, to announce what they are, nothing ingestible. However, many sellers of these as well as other hemp products said that the algorithms still rejected their ads.
One can just imagine the types of problems these kinds of rules can create. CBD businesses must essentially obscure who they are, rebranding themselves by creating entirely different landing pages as well as product labeling. Worse, the Facebook user and potential customers will not have a clue what type of product they are looking at or purchasing.
The official policy for Amazon is plain, “Listings for products containing cannabidiol (CBD) are prohibited.” However, some sellers have been known to bypass this rule by removing the “CBD” wording from the packaging and the listings by simply using “alternative keywords”.
Amazon has been known to ban these CBD businesses that use this hack. But all these companies do is simply “rebrand themselves” only to reappear on the site. This suspicious tactic called “brand burning” or selling the same product under a different made-up label, just further confuses customers as to what they are really buying.
Snapchat has similar rules and restrictions as Facebook, although fewer but more restrictive. This platform is one of the first social media channels to allow the use of the letters “CBD”.
However, its rules include the following: no showing of ingestible products (gummies), no glamorizing the use of the product by showing people smiling in the ads, not mentioning what the product does, and no testimonials or reviews from either consumers or “reputable media outlets”.
Once again, Snapchat users are still in the dark as to what they are purchasing. They are unable to distinguish quality-controlled, well-reviewed products from those products that are questionable.
When it comes to marketing CBD products on Instagram, let’s just say that such opportunities are limited. Any mention of the term cannabis will likely result in having the account banned.
In regards to paid ads, Instagram is really incredibly constricting. So much so that if a moderator happens to land on your account and finds marijuana ads or any other advertising that is in any way connected to this plant, you will be banned.
LinkedIn is surprisingly friendly towards the cannabis industry. However, there are some rules to follow to ensure your ad is approved. For paid ads, your images should not include cannabis products. You are also barred from using words such as cannabis, pot, weed, etc.
LinkedIn is the ideal audience as it is not overly crowded, unlike the other social media platforms. There are over 200 million monthly active members in North America. Not only are these users professionals, but they also have higher spending power, making them an ideal target customer.
According to CBD marketing professionals, Twitter is one of the most difficult social media platforms to enter. The platform prohibits the selling of drugs and sex and therefore CBD and marijuana are forbidden.
Therefore, you cannot run Twitter ads for cannabis. If you are caught engaging in any sort of promotional activity for cannabis, you could be banned from Twitter indefinitely.
- Tik Tok
If you decide to advertise cannabis on Tik Tok, do tread carefully. Their guidelines regarding advertisements list illegal drugs, prescription drugs, controlled drugs, and recreational drugs that will be banned on their platform.
Although there is no specific mention of CBD, you will need to look into local, national, and international laws about CBD ads. This will protect your account from being banned. Just to play it safe, do not mention CBD or hemp as part of the ad content.
Don’t Get Banned
The current regulations don’t seem to benefit anyone at the moment. Still, if you are a CBD merchant that wants to continue to sell CBD products in a way that will not get your ads pulled or your account banned, it is best to stick to the rules that do exist.
It could also be of benefit to look for “frictionless channels” that do allow CBD: influencer marketing, podcasts, and email marketing. At least until the FDA finally figures out what to do about CBD products.