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Weed and Advertising: Overview of the Paid Media Options for the Cannabis Industry

Paid media is a fast and effective way to grow brand awareness and increase traffic and conversions online. For most businesses, anyway. However, paid media is a fickle beast in the cannabis industry. Try to advertise on the wrong channel and you’ll quickly get banned—possibly for life. 

To make matters worse, the advertising guidelines vary from state to state. Some guidelines are standard across the country, though, like: 

  1. don’t commit false advertising; 
  2. definitely don’t make health, therapeutic, or medical claims; 
  3. don’t advertise to kids; and 
  4. don’t cross state lines. National advertising is a big no-no.

Advertising in the cannabis industry can be tricky, but it isn’t impossible. It pays to know the paid media options you can actually use online and which are best to use to see results in the cannabis sector. And it turns out, your options differ depending on which sector of the industry you work in. 

Paid Media Options for Cannabis Companies



Traditional Media 

Examples: Facebook, Instagram, Google Search , or mainstream media

Direct Media 

Buying directly from sites like Leafy, High Times and the NW Leaf

Sponsored Content

Advertising on content emails like Leafwire

Display Ad Networks

These are visual ads that are on a network with a large inventory of space available

B2B Yes (as long as you don’t mention cannabis) Yes Yes Yes
B2C Cannabis No (definitely not) Yes Yes Maybe (depends on the network)
B2C CBD Maybe (varies by media platform) Yes Yes Yes


Paid Media Options for B2B Cannabis Companies

In B2B, your business sells to other businesses. If you’re in this sector and you don’t touch cannabis flower, the rules are slightly more relaxed for you (phew). You might sell smart safes for dispensaries, grow lights, or POS systems, for example. 

Your Options in Paid Media

If you work in B2B, here’s what you need to know about paid media:

  • LinkedIn won’t help you find people easily (cannabis is not an identified industry for targeting)
  • There’s high turnover in the cannabis industry
  • Direct buys on sites like Leafly, High Times, and NW Leaf are great because they are the industry publications that people read
  • Consider sponsored content or emails from places like Leafwire that offer emails to their databases that you can sponsor
  • You’re allowed to run ads on Google Search, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter so long as you don’t mention cannabis (weed, pot, etc.) or show flower or seeds

Paid Media Options for B2C Cannabis Companies

If you’re in B2C, you sell directly to the consumer. This can mean that you sell CBD worldwide or cannabis, whether to a legal state or in legal countries like Canada. 

Here’s what you need to know about B2C paid media in your sector (Hint: your options suck):

Traditional Paid Media


  • You can’t advertise on social media networks (Facebook, Insta, Twitter, LinkedIn)
  • You can’t advertise on Google search, products, display network
  • You can’t advertise on most mainstream media outlets

But why? Put simply, because of the age restrictions and mixed legality, there is too much at risk for these companies to offer advertising to the cannabis industry. 

Paid Media Friendlies

Direct buys: Since you can’t advertise on traditional paid media, choose industry-focused publications (Weedmaps, Leafly, Eaze, High Times) instead. In paid media we call this a “direct buy” because it’s purchased from the media outlet, not an aggregator; the media outlet sets the rules and they all have different rules and requirements for advertising. 

These are great for target audiences who are already knowledgeable of cannabis. So it’s important to know your audience (e.g., this is not the best outlet for those who are new cannabis users).

Ad networks: When media sites that sell advertising have leftover inventory that they’re having trouble selling themselves, they’ll sell the ad spots to an ad network. This ad network will systematically post ads according to criteria.

There are pros and cons to using ad networks, and it’s important to note that not all networks are created equal in terms of quality. For example, some networks actually have geotargeting capabilities that can serve a dispensary’s ads to people within a certain radius. This is perfect for walk-by and nearby traffic, but not all networks offer this ability, so choose wisely.

On the plus side, using an ad network for cannabis advertising is cheaper than buying directly from the media site. It’ll also extend your brand’s reach across thousands of sites. On the downside, while you have some control over which sites you’re on (for example, with cannabis they must be 21+), you are buying leftover space after the best ad space and times have already been served up. For this reason, you can be left with ads that don’t quite reach your target audience. 

Use ad networks for branding. It’s a good option if you’re trying to get the word out or if you’re trying to build low-risk calls to action like email capture. For lead generation, however, you’re likely to see a lower click-through rate, so you may want to choose a different paid media option.

Paid Media Options for B2C Companies Selling CBD

If you sell CBD products with absolutely no THC products, you’re part of a distinct sector within the B2C cannabis industry. The good news is your options are a bit better here (Hooray!).

Traditional Paid Media

You can advertise on social media sites, Google, and most mainstream media, but you’ll need to get creative about the way you’re positioning your ads. You cannot directly say that you’re selling CBD or you’ll be flagged, and once you’re on a channel’s shit list, it’s difficult to be removed. 

To play by the rules, focus on health, wellness, and education. Landing pages can have references to CBD, but adding a direct purchase link is not recommended. 

These channels include:

  • Social media networks (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn)
  • Google search, products, display network
  • Many mainstream media outlets (Note: ads that have a manual review process or where you speak directly with an ad rep will have their own set of advertising guidelines that you must adhere to.)

Paid Media Friendlies

You’ll have no problem advertising on industry-focused publications like Weedmaps, Eaze, Leafly, and High Times. You can also advertise using ad networks. 

Marketing and advertising your dispensary or cannabis brand is critical to your success in such a competitive industry. However, strict regulations can make it more difficult for you to do so. It pays to understand which paid media options are available to you, and which you should avoid. Mary Jane Marketer makes it easy to navigate advertising in the cannabis industry and prevent potentially devastating mistakes that get you blacklisted. Book a consultation today. 

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