Maine’s Office of Marijuana Policy issued guidance Friday on how to advertise medical- and adult-use marijuana businesses without breaking state laws.

The office issued the guidance after looking into concerns raised about marijuana-related advertising displayed at the Androscoggin Bank Colisée in Lewiston.

The ads, some of which featured colorful images of cannabis leaves and fruit, drew complaints from parents whose children play sports or attend events at the ice arena.

Maine’s marijuana laws prohibit advertising that will reach or are designed to appeal to people who are under age 21 – the legal age to consume recreational marijuana products.

“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 posted Friday afternoon on the agency’s website.

Gundersen targeted the guidance to registrants in the Maine Medical Use Marijuana Program and licensees in the Maine Adult Use Marijuana Program. OMP is preparing for the adult-use market to open this spring, more than three years after Maine voters legalized recreational use in November 2016.

“Generally, registrants and licensees should consider the content of any advertisement and any aspect of such advertising that could be construed as appealing to those under 21 years of age,” Gundersen said in the letter.

Marijuana business operators must ensure advertising and other marketing materials aren’t displayed in prohibited areas, especially near public or private schools or other locations frequented by under-age people, Gundersen said.

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

As an example, Gundersen said, marijuana advertising or marketing at a publicly accessible sporting event or music venue would be prohibited unless the specific event or venue were restricted to people age 21 or older.

Marijuana businesses advertising via television, radio, print and other mass media “must be able to produce sufficient marketing data to demonstrate that the consumer base of the advertisement is appropriate,” Gundersen said.

If marijuana businesses use digital or web-based marketing, they “must closely consider that the statute prohibits unsolicited advertising or marketing on the internet,” Gundersen said.

Moreover, advertising or marketing directed toward location-based devices is prohibited unless the marketing is a mobile device application that is installed by the owner of the device and that person is age 21 or older.

Marijuana businesses that advertise on the internet, including on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, must employ age-verification technology to ensure that the people who see the advertising are age 21 or older. That advertising also should be limited to individuals who have liked and/or followed social media accounts managed by or on behalf of the business owners.

In assessing the “appropriateness” of marijuana advertising, Gundersen said, his office understands that “incidental exposure” to under-age people is “unavoidable.” As an example, he described “an otherwise permissible print advertisement in a publication (found) in a common waiting area.”

Gundersen concluded the letter with a warning that the guidance issued Friday was “not an exhaustive list of all program requirements regarding advertising” and advised marijuana business owners to consult an attorney to ensure their advertising is legal.


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