Even though the Hemp Farming act was passed in December 2018 effectively making hemp and CBD products legal, it did not make selling them simple. Many ad companies, such as Facebook and Google, expressly prohibit using their advertising platform for CBD. Additionally, while the act made selling CBD legal, the FDA still heavily regulates the selling and marketing of CBD products. Making claims on your website about the beneficial impact of CBD use that have not been substantiate by the FDA can easily land you in hot water. Scott Gottlieb, the FDA commissioner, made this very clear in his statement made accompanying the Hemp Farming act.
Yet another piece to this puzzle is an organization very few merchants are aware of called the MMP. MMP stands for merchant monitoring program. Many merchants are unaware that their websites and social media are always under scrutiny from these companies looking for posts and/or statements that violate compliance agreements with Visa/Mastercard. One wrong post and your merchant account can be terminated. It is in every merchant in the green industry best interest to ensure that every website and social media post is reviewed by someone knowledgeable in card brand compliance to ensure you are attracting new business without the risk of losing your merchant account. As a result, he typical model of having an employee run the social media side of the company becomes much more perilous in the CBD industry.
On the advertising front, the key is knowing where you can and can’t advertise and how to still get the most out of platforms that don’t allow explicit CBD advertisements. Because Google does not allow direct CBD advertising, search engine optimization because even more important than it already was. Amazon is another great resource with CBD selling. Amazon allows CBD products and paying for sponsored product placement can be a great way to advertise. Lastly, even though Facebook prohibits advertising and boosting posts related to CBD products, it does not prohibit posts about CBD. Because of this, effective posts that garner many likes can still be a roundabout way to unofficially “advertise” without breaking any rules. Additionally, teaming up with influencers to like your posts so that their followers see your content is another very effective way to game the system for your benefit. This is where a good social media team becomes invaluable.
All of this can seem very overwhelming but the most important thing to remember is that all your website and social media posts need to be curated by someone that understands the compliance issues associated with the CBD industry. Never make any medical claims of any kind on your website or social media and never mention any adjacent industries that are not federally legal. Instead, you can share personal, point-of-view, experiences that convey yours and other’s experiences with CBD without claiming to have medical knowledge. It is also very advisable to speak with your merchant processor and be very clear on what you can and cannot sell. For example, CBD isolate powder is a product that most processors are staying away from for now and you could receive a hefty fine for selling then and/or lose you merchant processing account completely. It is extremely important for you to know the CBD laws as well as your processor’s restrictions inside and out before launching any marketing campaigns.