4/20 Day: A Celebration of Cannabis Advancement

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Today is April 20. A day when thousands of advocates gather in cities across the United States to celebrate, in a myriad of ways, the cannabis plant. Now legal in some form in nearly half of the country, cannabis is not only honored, appreciated and praised on this annual holiday but is also campaigned for to become legalized in areas of the country where it is still prohibited. 

Dating back to the early 1900s, U.S. cannabis producers and users have been faced with and adversely affected by radical misinformation, propaganda, xenophobia, racism, classism and more. While Americans have largely overcome 20th-century propaganda efforts, legal cannabis businesses and enthusiasts are still victimized by the war on drugs today. Sure, we could harp on the past and present negative impacts of the long and complicated history of cannabis; however, this year, there’s much to celebrate and look forward to. Discussing the recent advancements in the growing industry, positive impacts on consumers and ways business leaders can utilize this newfound headway will make for a happy 4/20 indeed! 

Good news: legality is spreading

Arguably the most exciting advancement to date, as of April 2023, 21 states and the District of Columbia have legalized some form of adult recreational cannabis use. To put this into demographical perspective, a Center analysis of last year’s population from the U.S. Census Bureau estimates around 48% of Americans now live in a jurisdiction where recreational cannabis is legal.

How business leaders can utilize this headway

Emerging (new) cannabis markets are ripe for responsible education surrounding the plant. As novel consumers gain exposure to cannabis and its benefits, they are also inevitably exposed to misleading, outdated and simply false information. By tackling this head-on, cannabis businesses in newly legal states can — and should! — oversee the narrative and inform consumers of actual facts (before it’s too late). With the right approach, business leaders can demonstrate thought leadership in an arena fresh to many of its consumers; this education can help gain the confidence of ambivalent customers and cement your product offering as safe and beneficial as opposed to past sentiments attached by disparagers. 

From dream to reality: social media advertising

This past March, one major online technology company shook the industry by updating its policies on cannabis advertising. In a recent blog post, Twitter announced that it would become the cannabis-friendliest social platform by allowing some previously restricted cannabis ads to appear in Twitter feeds of users in states that have legalized the plant.

“In certain U.S. states, we have taken measures to relax our cannabis ads policy to create more opportunities for responsible cannabis marketing — the largest step forward by any social media platform,” Alexa Alianiello, said Twitter’s lead of ad sales and partnerships.

As opposed to stricter regulations on Meta and Reddit, Twitter’s new policies allow THC and CBD brands to do the following:

  • Run ads promoting their brands. 
  • Provide informational cannabis-related content.

However, cannabis brands who pursue paid advertising on Twitter cannot:

  • Create ads that appeal to minors or use minors or pregnant women as models.
  • Make efficacy or health claims.
  • Share false or misleading information.
  • Depict product use, show people under the influence or encourage transport across state lines.

How business leaders can utilize this headway

Prioritizing responsible cannabis marketing, Twitter aims to help brands utilize ads to increase outreach, attract new customers and grow sales while also working to prevent the glamorization of cannabis or appeal to lamentable audiences. While Twitter’s ads have been implemented with mixed success, the public company’s emphasis on safety and education protects the industry from all angles.

Communicators who focus on producing content that promotes their brand’s values, events and overall consumer education will have the most success with cannabis ads on Twitter. Additionally, creative and engaging calls to action, high-quality imagery, discounts and influencer partnerships will also drive value to your advertisements.

The results are in: stay positive

In March 2023, the Journal of Economic Literature released a meta-analysis titled “The Public Health Effects of Legalizing Marijuana,” which comprised the study of 36 different research papers published between 2013 to 2021 focused on medical cannabis’s societal impact. The research linked medical cannabis legalization to several positive public health outcomes, including reduced suicides, crime, traffic fatalities, and alcohol and tobacco consumption. 

One substantial finding from the societal review marked a significant advancement for the industry by addressing a major concern often touted by regulators who oppose cannabis. Many anti-cannabis public health bodies believe legalization will drive an increase in consumption amongst young people. However, the research found ironic evidence to suggest a drop in cannabis use among teenagers. 

While researchers were hesitant to make conclusions regarding legalization and the reduction of prescription medications, opioid use, sickness-related absences and workplace injuries, their analysis proved, at the minimum, a notable association to these impacts as well.

How business leaders can utilize this headway

The U.S. regulatory status of cannabis, sources for cannabis study medications and limited funding are three barriers that hinder cannabis research. Still, researchers are fighting tirelessly to pressure federal agencies to loosen restrictions. Cannabis business leaders can support this fight by donating to research facilities, sharing research advancements on their marketing channels and offering educational courses to consumers interested in learning about the plant’s benefits. 

The industry’s road to legalization is an uphill battle but recent happenings have proved we’re moving in the right direction. After years of struggle, ridicule and pushback, cannabis business leaders and consumers deserve some positivity — what better day than today to celebrate?

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