Anyone who watched "SLC Punk" in 1998 and followed the ensemble cast as they drove to an out-of-state package store to skirt the Beehive State's unique liquor laws won't be surprised to hear that Utah also takes its own approach to medical cannabis. Although Salt Lake City has become a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts in recent years, Utah's sizable Mormon population, which traditionally eschews even widely accepted drugs like caffeine and alcohol, continues to shape the state's approach to substances like cannabis—including how medical marijuana is marketed.
Is Cannabis Legal in Utah?
Land of the Great Salt Lake, Utah is renowned for its stunning landscapes and arguably its stringent (but evolving) laws surrounding intoxicants. While adult-use cannabis remains illegal, Utah legalized medical cannabis in 2018 with the Utah Medical Cannabis Act.
There are currently only 15 medical dispensaries (or, as the state calls them, “medical cannabis pharmacies,”) in the state run by 10 different companies. But as Utah's medical cannabis market inevitably grows, many in the industry are looking for effective ways to navigate its waters and make their mark.
Is it Legal to Market Cannabis in Utah?
Yes, but barely. While you can now buy beer in Utah grocery stores with 5% alcohol by volume (compared to the 4% allowed prior to 2019), and alcohol manufacturers and brands are allowed to advertise relatively freely, Utah has quite possibly the strictest rules in the U.S. when it comes to cannabis marketing.
Medical cannabis pharmacies in Utah simply cannot advertise “in any medium” under the Utah Medical Act except for under the following circumstances:
- They may advertise an employment opportunity at their retail store;
- They may use external signage (“notwithstanding any municipal or county ordinance prohibiting signage”) that only includes the pharmacy’s name, logo and operating hours and a green cross.
- They may maintain a website that lists, but does not promote, the pharmacy’s inventory;
- They may hold state-approved educational events
Here’s what licensed medical cannabis pharmacies may legally advertise in “in any medium”:
- The name and logo of the pharmacy;
- The store’s hours of operation and location;
- Available services;
- Affiliated personnel;
- If the pharmacy is licensed to deliver;
- The pharmacy’s best practices;
- State-approved educational materials
To add icing to the cannabis cake, pharmacies may not give away “any gift items or merchandise other than educational materials [approved by the state].”
Cannabis advertising rules also prohibition any ads that tout specific brands or products on their shelves.
It’s a tough market.
How to Legally Market Cannabis Brands in Utah
The short answer here is: Very carefully. If you’re a national player or out-of-state brand, there’s nothing preventing you from promoting the products available in Utah on your website, or simply stating that they’re available in Utah.
But given the long list of restrictions, it's essential for local cannabis brands to get crafty — legally, of course. Age-gated newsletters and blogs with simple opt-out functions are an option. And if you're dreaming of loyalty programs or opt-in text lists, dream on! They're very much in the realm of possibilities—or at least there’s no text within the Utah Medical Cannabis Act specifically prohibiting them.
When planning an advertising campaign, Utah brands should focus on being informative and helpful rather than pushing sales. Remember, in Utah, it’s more about "educate" and less about "elevate."
Dispensary Marketing in Utah
The challenge when it comes to dispensary marketing in Utah isn't simply getting customers through the door, but ensuring they are informed, qualified medical cannabis users. It's not just about the "buzz"; it's about genuinely helping those in need.
Utah dispensaries can leverage educational events, workshops and seminars. There's an opportunity here to not only attract customers but to establish a brand as a knowledgeable, responsible, rule-following community leader.
Cannabis Brand Marketing in Utah
Ah, branding in Utah, where the stakes are high but the altitude's even higher. Many cannabis businesses are embracing the state's unique desert landscape, tight-knit communities and holistic wellness trends in their branding strategies.
We've seen many businesses lean into Utah's deep-rooted sense of community and wellness, focusing on healing, therapeutic benefits and the pure, natural allure of the state's diverse ecosystems. Utah cannabis brands understand it's less about escaping and more about elevating one's quality of life.
In the end, while the road to marketing cannabis in Utah might have a few more speed bumps than the Bonneville Salt Flats, those who approach it with creativity, respect for the law and a genuine desire to educate are sure to find their groove. After all, Utah's motto is "Industry," and with a little resilience, cannabis marketers can make it their industry.
Top 10 Cannabis Brands in Utah
From the Great Salt Lake to Zion National Park and Lake Powell, there’s a plethora of pretty places to experience under the enhancing effects of cannabis. But there are only 10 companies operating retail stores in the state. Here they are: