The cannabis community has oft been criticized as one riddled in cliché. Branding and marketing have certainly come a long way in recent legal year, but the emerging industry is not out of the woods just yet.
According to the United State Patent and Trademark Office, 44 percent of marijuana companies use a cannabis leaf as part of the logo. That means nearly half of the industry’s registered companies (a likely moderate sample size) use a similar logo.
That’s a stunning number and one that dwarfs even barber companies that use striped poles in their logos. Here’s a breakdown of how this compares to other nationwide logo clichés:
Chart via Slate
Moreover, the marijuana leaf wasn’t even registered for a single logo until 2004. In a little over 10 years, that logo went from a 0.0 percent register rate with the USPTO to a 0.2 percent rate of new registered logos. That number will probably only continue to climb.
Is it a big deal? As sociologist author, James Bowie notes, probably not just yet. But as the industry continues to grow and competition becomes even more fierce, that logo could lead to some legitimate confusion for consumers. And that confusion could lead to some major brands losing business.
Vireo Health, a company with medical marijuana dispensaries in both Minnesota and New York, did what any normal business in any industry tries to do: increase business with Google Ads.
However, when Vireo tried to buy some digital ads focusing on New York, Google hit Vireo with a bizarre rejection note. The rejection stated that the mega-company couldn’t work with Vireo because of a company policy that prohibits ads for “dangerous products or services.”
It’s unclear when Vireo attempted release the ads in New York (probably somewhat recently), but the news surfaced when Vireo decided to go public with the denial and talk to the Minnesota Star Tribune. Vireo wants to use Google Ads in Minnesota to drive medical marijuana patients to its business, a rather sensible goal in a state where the success of the medical cannabis program is being scrutinized
Likewise, Vireo (or the Tribune, it’s unclear) tried to get in touch with Google via phone and email about the Minnesota ads, but have yet to supply any response to the query. However, as the Tribune points out, marijuana falls into the same categories as tobacco and guns, just a couple of the items Google won’t allow ads for because they “cause damage, harm, or injury.”
That logic is fair until you consider that this is medical marijuana, not some illicit drug that causes cancer. Vireo founder Dr. Kyle Kinglsey makes this poignant point to the Tribune:
“As a physician, it’s hard to understand why Google willingly accepts ads that promote highly addictive painkillers, like OxyContin, that are responsible for thousands of deaths each year, but knowingly rejects medical cannabis ads that could, in many cases, be a significantly safer therapeutic option for patients,”
Kingsley said in a statement.
Medical marijuana provides an undeniable well-being to lives. Preventing people from accessing sensible data on the plant seems a bit short-sighted and not with the times.
Moreover, these types of ads aren’t even controversial ones promoting cannabis smoke. They’re simply standard, geo-targeted Google Ads that increase pageviews and exposure, two cogs of running a business in this day and age.
This week, Health Canada issued letters to medical marijuana providers warning them to stray away from sexed-up advertising that make their products look and sound appealing. The new set of regulations is set to take effect on January 12 and will threaten to take away licensing for noncompliant marijuana distributors.
Health Canada is Canada’s federal department responsible for overseeing public health concerns, and has recently taken a firm stance on what can and cannot be used in marketing marijuana products. The department reached out to 20 distributors in personalized letters warning of the tightened regulations. The strict guidelines dictate how products are displayed on websites, social media, and even restrict linking to third-party sites and services.
Health Canada says, “The information provided by licensed producers to the public should be limited to basic information for prospective clients such as the brand name, proper or common name of the strain, the price per gram, the cannabinoid content, and the company’s contact information.”
This comes in stark contrast of some Canadian marijuana producers’ lofty goals. We recently took a look at what may be deemed as Canada’s luxury marijuana brand, Hydropothecary, which will likely suffer from these type of restrictions in marketing language. However, dispensary owners are remaining optimistic.
Marc Wayne, CEO of Bedrocan Canada said, “We welcome the clarity and enforcement … and the level playing field.” Ottawa lawyer Trina Fraser says that the words treats, relieves, and prevents may be out-of-bounds when describing medicinal properties of different strains. With little information about how the strains work available to the public, distributors may turn to a one-on-one consultative experience that guides medical patients to the right strain.
Currently there are only 22 licensed medical marijuana providers in Canada, but around 1,000 are in line behind them. Though Health Canada hasn’t yet limited the number of cannabis producers for the country, they will likely continue to tighten regulations in an effort to raise standards for providers.
Photo Credit: Rock & Roll Canada