Cresco Labs, a medical marijuana business in Illinois, is launching a $1 million marketing campaign that’s going to include print advertising, radio commercials, billboards, social media campaigns, and notices in health publications. The only problem is that there’s a ban on advertising by growers in the Prairie State.
“Cultivation centers may not advertise through any public medium … designed to market (their) products to the public,” state Illinois Department of Agriculture regulations.
However, cultivation centers can market to doctors and dispensaries. Cresco officials said in response to a question about whether the regulation applies to to their case that the new ad campaign was meant to promote the state medical marijuana program as a whole. Not their products specifically.
“This outreach campaign is about educating patients and doctors that there are new forms of medical relief in Illinois and directing them to our website to use as a portal for applying,” said Cresco President Rob Sampson. “All educational outreach to create awareness of this program, whether by us or anyone else in this industry, is clearly within the state’s guidelines.”
Department of Agriculture officials have seen the local marketing efforts, according to spokesperson Rebecca Clark, and are “evaluating enforcement options.”
“The department may assess monetary fines or other conditions for rule violations,” she stated.
The potential censure highlights the biggest problem facing the state’s medical marijuana program: awareness.
As Cresco officials have said, the ads are designed to promote medical marijuana as a whole; the program itself is now two years old, but continues to struggle to even get off the ground. State data from September shows that only 3,000 patients have been approved to use medical marijuana, just 0.0002% of the state’s population. Initial estimates figured that there would be over 100,000 medical marijuana patients.
“This is proof that having a proper advertising strategy to reach the target market is crucial for any type of business,” Ron Blackwelder, Owner, Charlotte Local Marketing. “Every company has that ‘sweet spot’ where they can most effectively communicate and connect with their specific audience.”
The ads are hoping to change that. Cresco founder Charles Bachtell explained that the media blitz is meant to “normalize” the program, saying, “Right now we need to make sure the people of Illinois are comfortable with the program.”