Digital Dispensary Advertising Laws – 5 Tips for Success

Dispensary Digital Marketing – What are the Rules? 5 Tips to Maximize your Online Presence (Legally)

Establishing your dispensary undoubtedly required you to overcome a myriad of challenges. Navigating the regulations, creating a business plan, securing the capital to cover start-up costs. It wasn’t easy. Or cheap.

And now, to keep your doors open, you have to build a customer base.


Digital advertising is the most appealing. It’s 2020. Everyone is online. Every day.

As we’re sure you’ve discovered, digital dispensary marketing isn’t as straightforward as it is for almost any other business.

That’s where we come in. 

Read on to discover how to market your dispensary using Google (and other search engines).

Dispensary Marketing Laws

Marijuana marketing requires a delicate balance of considerations in both the methods of advertising you choose to pursue and the legality of the undertaking at both federal and state levels.

Federal law, for example, prohibits the use of a “communication facility” to participate in the advertisement of controlled substances. This includes mail, telephone, and radio.

Internet advertising faces similar restrictions. 

Although your dispensary has been legalized by the state you live in, your ability to advertise may be severely limited.

Can Dispensaries Advertise on Search Engines?

The short answer? No. You can’t use paid advertisements on popular search engines to market your dispensary.

Unlike that organic pet food store down the street, your dispensary sells a controlled and illegal (under federal law) substance.

To ensure they are in compliance with federal law, each of the most popular search engines has specific rules related to advertising controlled substances. Let’s take a look.


The rule against dispensary advertising on Google falls under their policy related to “dangerous products or services.”

This policy states: 

“…we don’t allow the promotion of some products or services that cause damage, harm, or injury.”

And further explains: 

“The following is not allowed: Ads for substances that alter mental state for the purpose of recreation or otherwise induce “highs.”

Policy violations can lead to

  • Ad disapproval
  • Account suspension
  • Remarketing list disabling
  • Compliance review


Bing’s dispensary advertising limitation is due to Microsoft’s “Disallowed and restricted products and services policies:”

“Advertising is not allowed for the following: …the distribution, use or cultivation of illegal substances, substances of questionable legality, or substances whose primary purpose seems to be recreational mind alteration.”


Yahoo’s marketing guidelines in relation to dispensaries are governed by Verizon Media’s advertising policies on recreational drugs:

“Marijuana – Advertising for the following is prohibited:

  • Medicinal or recreational marijuana products and derivatives, including marijuana-derived CBD
  • Dispensaries, delivery methods, accessories, and any services related to marijuana”

Cannabis Marketing: What Can You Do on a Digital Platform?

With limitations placed on your ability to advertise on Google and other popular search engines, you may be wondering what you can do to advertise your dispensary on a digital platform.

While you may be able to circumvent the digital police and find a creative way to sneak some Google Ads through, you have to ask yourself – is it worth the time, money, or risk?

Your best option to increase traffic is to elevate your dispensary’s online presence and improve your organic search engine ranking.

There are multiple steps you can take to advertise your dispensary that require little to no monetary investment and will continue to produce results long after your money is spent.

Cannabis Advertising: Stand Out by Ranking in Google’s Local Pack

The “Local Pack.” Even if you don’t know what this means, we can assure you that you’ve seen it. Your buying decisions have likely been influenced by it.

Google’s Local Pack is prime territory on a Google results page. It populates in response to a search for a specific type of business or service.

Let’s say a Google user is searching for a dispensary in Portland, OR. This is what the search results page could look like:

This is Google’s Local Pack. Growing your business in the digital world is infinitely easier if you can break into this highly-coveted search engine real estate.

Oh, by the way, take a look at that screenshot from above one more time.

Both Chalice Farms and Jayne are our clients. And, as you can see, they’re dominating the local pack.

How can you make this happen?

Utilize the five tips below to optimize your dispensary’s online presence and improve your chance at populating in the “Local Pack.”

5 Actionable Digital Dispensary Advertising Tips to Increase Your Dispensary’s Traffic – Both In-person and Online

For your dispensary to succeed and outperform your competition in the digital world, your brand needs to build authority in search engines’ algorithms. 

Whether you’re an online dispensary or a brick and mortar boutique shop, your online presence—or lack thereof—can tell a potential customer a lot about you.

So, you will need to utilize every tool available to give your dispensary the authority it needs to rank organically.
At Terrayn, we specialize in identifying ways to improve your dispensary’s organic ranking.

Participate in a free strategy session to find out how to grow your marketing plan.

Tip #1: Optimize Your Search Engine Business Pages

For your dispensary to rank organically, your customers first need to be able to find you online and see that you are a legitimate and trustworthy source for their cannabis needs.

The quality of your search engine business pages will go a long way to add authority to your dispensary—both in the eyes of consumers and in search engine algorithms.


Establishing and optimizing your Google My Business (GMB) page is vital if you ever hope to rank organically in Google’s Local Pack.

GMB gives you the ability to:

  • See how online consumers are finding your dispensary
  • Provide your customer with easy access to all methods of communication with your dispensary
  • Interact with your customers via Google Reviews
  • Attract new customers

To ensure you are maximizing the effect of your dispensary’s GMB page, you will need to:

  1. Create a GMB title that utilizes target keywords (if possible)
  2. Make sure your GMB description includes target keywords
  3. Establish an exhaustive GMB Services section
  4. Connect your website directly to your GMB page

Alternate Search Engines

You can take similar steps to enhance your business’ ranking in Bing search results through Bing Places and in Yahoo through Yahoo Local Listings.

Tip #2: Make Sure Your Dispensary Website is Optimized for Local Searches

Local searches like “____ near me” have increased exponentially in the last five years. If your dispensary’s website is optimized to produce results for local searches, you’re far more likely to populate in Google’s Local Pack.

There are three steps you can take to accomplish this:

Establish a site architecture that clearly promotes your products

1. These pages perform well for specific “near me” product searches and might look something like:

  • com/products/flowers
  • .com/products/concentrates
  • .com/products/edibles

Create local landing pages for neighborhoods you serve

2. Local landing pages can attract online customers looking for your products in specific parts of town:

  • .com/Portland/Downtown
  • .com/Portland/Pearl-District
  • .com/Portland/Northeast

Embed your GMB page onto your website via Google Maps

3. This tells Google you are who you say you are and are located where you say you’re located.

Tip #3: Add Value-Rich Content to Your Website

Google’s algorithm also evaluates your authority in the dispensary industry using the content on your website.

Including a robust blog or informational section on your website allows you to connect with online search engine users through commonly searched keywords or phrases.

The important element to consider when establishing a blog on your website is to generate content that truly adds value. Google’s algorithm is insanely smart. It will probe your content for legitimacy to determine the value-added for its users.

Tip #4: Generate and Nurture Quality Reviews (Automatically)

Reviews. They’re crucial. 93% of consumers are influenced by online reviews.

Positive reviews linked to your GMB page can directly impact your ability to rank in the Local Pack.

It is essential to:

Generate reviews

  1. You can do this automatically by leveraging a reviews program that asks your customers for reviews via text message

Respond to reviews

  1. When someone leaves a positive review, respond to them
  2. People love to feel valued and engaged—and potential customers love to see a business owner who appreciates their customers

Tip #5: Employ a Dedicated Dispensary Marketing Agency

These tips are not meant to overwhelm you. It may seem like a lot of work, and you’re not wrong. Although search engine optimization isn’t difficult, it is time-consuming. 

If you’d rather spend your time in your shop working directly with your customers, we understand.

At Terrayn, we’re dedicated to improving the marketing strategies for dispensaries. It’s our sole focus. Contact us for a free strategy session today.

Give your dispensaries a competitive
in your local markets.

Free Strategy Session

Let our team of experts dive into your dispensary and walk you through how we can take your business to the next level.

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