Marketing your cannabis company in Mississippi

**I am not an attorney or legal consultant; these are my personal views only. You can review all updated medical cannabis regulations at the website for the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Program.*

Every industry has its rules and regulations, and the cannabis, or medical marijuana, industry in Mississippi is no different. Mississippi only recently began to allow the sale and use of medical marijuana, so many companies in this space are still nervous about what is, and what isn’t, allowed. In this post, I’m going to look at the regulations that address advertising and marketing, and what that could mean for digital marketing specifically for cannabis companies in this state.

Regulations for Advertising and Marketing a Medical Cannabis Establishment in Mississippi

Prohibition Against Advertising and Marketing

In Subchapter 2 of the Regulations for Advertising and Marketing, they seem to prohibit just about any form of advertising:

Rule 3.2.1
Medical Cannabis Establishments participating in the Medical Cannabis Program, or entities acting on their behalf, are prohibited from advertising and marketing in any media, including but not limited to:

  1. Broadcast or electronic media:
    A. Radio
    B. Television
    C. Unsolicited internet pop-up advertising
    D. Social media

  2. Print media:
    A. Newspaper

  3. Other forms:
    A. Mass text/messaging communications
    B. Mass email communications
    C. Medical cannabis or medical cannabis products shall not be displayed in windows or public view.
    D. Advertisement in any manner that can be viewable or otherwise perceived as a public space, including, but not limited to, adopt a highway signs, and electronic interstate signs.
    E. Solicited/paid patient and/or caregiver reviews/ testimonies/endorsements.
    F. Solicited/paid practitioner reviews/ testimonies/ endorsements.

Rule 3.2.2
No Medical Cannabis Establishment shall engage in advertising that contains any statement or illustration that:

  1. Depicts the actual consumption of cannabis or cannabis products;
  2. Promotes the overconsumption of cannabis or cannabis products;
  3. Makes any health, medicinal, or therapeutic claims about cannabis or cannabis products;
  4. Makes safety claims of any type;
  5. Includes the image of a cannabis leaf or bud; or
  6. Includes any image designed or likely to appeal to minors, including cartoons, toys, animals, or children or any other likeness, images, characters, or phrases that are designed in any manner to be appealing to children and/or youth.

It definitely appears to have some difficult limitations, considering how important advertising and marketing is for any business. To read further into the legalities and free speech considerations for this, there is an excellent post from the National Law Review: “Do Mississippi’s Medical Cannabis Advertising and Marketing Restrictions Go Too Far?”

However, the regulations go on to allow for certain types of “branding activities”:

Branding Requirements

Rule 3.3.1
Medical Cannabis Establishments are permitted to participate in branding activities as described in Rules 3.3.2. and 3.3.5 in order to publicize their businesses. Additionally, the business name, location(s), and contact information of all licensed medical cannabis establishments will be made available by the Department through a public website.

Rule 3.3.2
Permissible branding activities include:

  1. Establishment of a website and/or social media presence (emphasis added) that provides general information on the licensed entity’s contact information, retail dispensing locations, and a list of products available.
  2. Listings in business directories (inclusive of phone books, cannabis-related or medical publications).
  3. Sponsorships of health or not-for-profit charity or advocacy events.

Rule 3.3.3
Branding must not target minors, pregnant women, breastfeeding women, or promote non-medical use of cannabis.

Read the full chapter on medical cannabis advertising and marketing regulations

My conclusion (again, not legal advice): websites and social media are allowed, as long as they aren’t advertising or marketing cannabis itself.

Instead, they must be designed to increase brand awareness for the company itself. Personally, I can appreciate the distinction here, even if it feels like a very fine line in some aspects. For the purposes of this post, I am focusing on website optimization, but social media will be discussed in an upcoming post for sure.

Ideas for using your website to raise brand awareness for your cannabis company

Use keyword research to enhance SEO (search engine optimization) efforts

I’m obviously biased, but this is what first jumped out at me while I was reviewing the regulations. These regulations leave a lot of room for a cannabis company to use good foundational and ongoing SEO to rank high in Google. The industry in Mississippi is especially new, and there are a lot of good keywords “up for grabs” locally. You can research some of these keywords yourself using tools like SEMRush, Ahrefs, or Moz (each should include a free trial), and see where the opportunities are for adding content to your website that helps answer users’ questions in this area.

Create quality content that answer’s patients’ and caregivers’ questions.

Blog posts, videos (especially with transcripts and subtitles), white papers, and so many more options are great for communicating with and educating patients that you are trying to serve. Again, keyword research is useful in this area, but it is not the be-all, end-all. Quality content answers the questions that patients, caregivers, and others are asking. This not only gives a positive user experience on your website, but it gives Google content – YOUR content – to serve when the questions are posed.

Write guest posts for relevant websites within the industry, and build a profile of quality backlinks.

This benefits your cannabis company in multiple ways. First, in writing a guest post for any blog or website, especially one with authority in your industry, you are raising awareness for your company brand with a potentially brand new audience. In addition, especially when done right with quality websites, these posts increase your website’s quality backlinks. This is like a recommendation to Google, and is a very valuable factor in increasing your website’s organic traffic with SEO.

List or claim your website on sites such as like Leafly and Weedmaps, in addition to GoogleMyBusiness, Yelp, etc as applicable.

Business directories are permitted, and these can provide a lot of quality visits to your own website. They are also great backlink opportunities, in most cases. Again, these are like recommendations for your website to Google, letting Google know that your website is relevant for certain search queries, topic clusters, and the like.

Perform an audit on your website to ensure that there are no technical issues that might cause Google to penalize your site in rankings.

High quality content is crucial, but even if you do everything else right, there can be technical issues lurking under the surface that are creating penalties against your site from Google. This can range from accessibility issues, to meta tags, and so much more. Google Pagespeed Insights, Google Search Console, and Google’s mobile-friendly website test few free tools below that you can use to check your own website.

There are many creative ways that you can raise brand awareness for your company, and educate patients and others on the products and services available from your company. Whether you have a website right now or not, make sure that you and/or your website designer are familiar with these regulations before beginning a project. Following the trends and changing laws in this industry is also very important, things change frequently as feedback is given to lawmakers in this process!

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Additional Reading

Blog post: How to use networking to improve your website’s SEO

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Ashley Ann

Ashley lives in Rankin County, Mississippi with her husband, Jay, and a happily chaotic bunch of children, grandchildren, dogs, chickens, and various other small animals. Not to mention a rather impressive houseplant collection. Find her on LinkedIn!