How to Market Your Marijuana Retail Store (Legally) in Colorado

by Jayson Filingeri,

Last Updated: 11/17/2016


Even though Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, questions surrounding what’s okay when it comes to advertising is still confusing for some retail marijuana store owners. Colorado has made several updates and amendments to its marijuana advertising regulations, and additional changes could be made in the future.

To help your Colorado marijuana retail store marketing efforts, here’s a simple breakdown of the regulations along with some examples of how you can remain compliant.

Truthful Statements

Colorado requires that all marijuana store advertising is factual and truthful. No misleading verbiage or imagery can be used. All materials in public view must be truthful and free from deceptive products or statements regarding any marijuana product.

What this means is that you cannot claim your product to be a miracle drug or organic, simply because the federal government does not recognize marijuana as a medicine and remains illegal federally.

What Cannot be Used in Advertising

Colorado is adamant about the way that retail marijuana is marketed. It cannot include characters, language or anything that would entice or promote underage use. In Colorado, those under the age of 21 are considered minors in regards to the retail marijuana industry. Advertisements cannot include messaging of any kind that will appeal to anyone younger than 21. For example, using people who appear to be in high school for a marijuana-related advertisement.  

Advertising Methods and Restrictions

In Colorado, retail marijuana store advertising cannot be aired on television unless it can be proven that less than 30% or less of its audience is considered to be a minor. Before an advertisement can be aired and funds can be received for the advertisement, the content must be approved. Mass marketing attempts on television or radio are not permitted given the higher potential for a larger group of minors being exposed. Most radio and television networks will have demographic information about their audiences.

If you’d like to advertise on radio, the same rules apply to radio advertising as television. You cannot market to audiences with 30-percent or more being minors (under age 21). For instance, marketing during popular radio show hours with younger audiences is prohibited.

Print media marketing campaigns cannot be distributed to audiences under the age of 21, and cannot be distributed in areas where the audience is expected to be in a largely minor age group. For example, an area relatively close to middle or high schools. Print media refers to items such as handbills (fliers/advertising cards), newspaper and magazine ads.

Internet advertising is a bit different as it’s difficult to ascertain the age of the audience because fibbing about age is rather easy to do. The rules regarding Internet advertising are rather simple, no Internet advertising can occur where more than 30-percent of the audience is under the age of 21. In terms of pop-up advertising, it simply isn’t allowed.


Marketing to Tourists

Colorado may be known for its marijuana tourism industry, but marketing to out-of-state adults is actually prohibited.

What this means is that you can’t advertise outside of the state of Colorado for bud and breakfast establishments, marijuana hotels, marijuana bike tours or other marijuana-related services/amenities.

Use of Signs for Advertising Purposes

Signs saying that your products are “safe” are not allowed. The State Licensing Authority regulates the marijuana industry in Colorado. The same goes for testing facilities and products that have passed tests for quality. Testing facilities may not “certify” a product and Colorado marijuana retail store marketing campaigns may not include language stating that any testing facility endorses or certifies a product.

External Advertising Signs

In Colorado, each individual city can set regulations regarding signage and advertising that must be adhered to along with state regulations. When it comes to external signage on sidewalks, public areas and streets, signage promoting your retail marijuana business is prohibited. You cannot place signage in parks either. Billboard advertisements are also prohibited.

Other external advertising prohibitions:

  • Magnetic vehicle signage or vehicle wraps
  • Handheld signs (sign spinning outside of your establishment)
  • No handbills (small fliers and leaflets) may not be distributed in public
  • No handbills can be left on vehicles or posted in any public area without proper consent from private property owners

Now, what you can do is put signs on the building you’re operating out of. The signage can only be to identify your Colorado retail marijuana store.

Prohibited Signage Rules

Signs posted outside of your retail marijuana store cannot contain anything that would be attractive to minors. This means that your store’s sign cannot include a cartoon character using marijuana. It cannot use a public figure that minors see as popular using or endorsing your store.

Mobile Device Advertising

Unless your retail marijuana store has a dedicated mobile app, no advertising via mobile device may be distributed. So, you can only include advertisements within your own mobile app and users must be age 21 or older to receive those advertisements. If you’re running a special or have a new product, you can promote it via your own mobile app, but it cannot be distributed to others that are not within your mobile application audience.

Sponsoring Events and Charity Events

Colorado has even taken event sponsorship into consideration. The guidelines are rather simple. You can sponsor an event like a charity or sporting event, as examples, but you can’t advertise your sponsorship to any group of underage persons.

Closing Thoughts

Do Colorado’s advertising regulations make it impossible for Colorado marijuana retail store marketing to be successful? Absolutely not, but you have to be creative and ensure that you’re complying with the laws as they’re written. It is important to stay up-to-date on advertising rules and regulations as more advertising changes could occur in the future.

The most important thing to take away from this article is that you cannot market to anyone under the age of 21 in any way and cannot make your advertising attractive to them.