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What Does Cannabis Marketing Look Like in New York?

Published on
November 15, 2022
A vintage, greyscale postcard reads New York City in a whimsical hand-drawn script and features illustrations of Park Row, City Hall and the St. Paul Building on Broadway

Meghan O’Dea is a versatile writer with nearly a decade of experience covering the travel, outdoor and cannabis industries, as well as in digital and content marketing. She prides herself on finding the exact right voice and angle for any given project and on research expertise honed from her years in academia. Meghan specializes in both big-picture content strategy and detailed technical skills like search engine optimization, all without losing sight of distinctive and creative brand messaging.

Prior to joining the Grasslands team, Meghan contributed to publications including Fortune magazine, Uproxx and Lonely Planet. She has also earned bylines in The Washington Post, Playboy, Bitch magazine, Nylon, Willamette Week, Yoga Journal, Subaru Drive Magazine and Different Leaf, amongst others. Meghan holds a master’s in creative nonfiction from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and was a visiting scholar at the international MFA program at City University in Hong Kong. She has also taught writing at the college level and guest lectured on topics such as literary citizenship, urban history and professional development for writers at conferences and universities throughout the United States as well as Madrid, Spain.

Three media outlets I check every single day: The Cut, New York Magazine, The Washington Post

Super inspired by: Women like Isabella Bird, Uschi Obermaier and my maternal grandmother, who dared to travel the world even in eras when global adventures went against the grain.

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: PEN America’s Prison Writing Program

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Books. Long walks. Architecture. Mixtapes.

The Empire State was the 15th in the country to legalize recreational cannabis, with license applications beginning on August 25, 2022. Availability of the initial round of licenses was restricted to owners and operators with past cannabis convictions. Sales are expected to begin in late 2022 or 2023, pending the harvest of sufficient cannabis supplies to stock dispensary locations from Buffalo to New York City. Medical dispensaries, meanwhile, have been open since 2016 

In addition to legalizing the transport and possession of up to three ounces of cannabis or 24 grams of concentrates, New York will also permit home cultivation of up to six cannabis plants. T According to the state’s Penal Law those can consist of three mature plants and three immature per person, or a limit of 12 plants per household as of October 5, 2022

Is it Legal to Market Cannabis in New York?

New York allows operators to advertise cannabis products, although as in other legal states, there are cannabis marketing rules describing how brands can reach customers. New York’s Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA) specifies that cannabis ads cannot be “false, deceptive or misleading,” show consumption or encourage overconsumption, appeal to children or be visible from within 500 feet of schools, playgrounds, daycares, libraries, public parks, billboards, public transportation or municipal property. 

Online, cannabis marketers cannot make use of pop-up ads nor place ads anywhere on the internet that minors can be reasonably expected to encounter such collateral. Broadcast television, cable television and radio advertisements are also off limits, a rule found in every legal state because of FCC regulations dictated by federal prohibition.

How to Legally Market Cannabis Brands in New York

Cannabis companies may have a long list of off-limits advertising channels, but they are free to apply marketing strategies to subscription-based media channels with a provable majority of adult users. That means New York-based cannabis companies can turn to owned media channels to advertise their products, including blogs, websites, white papers, opt-in newsletters and text message lists, podcasts and gated video content.

Regulations also establish clear guidelines identifying where advertisers can display their campaigns, as well as what marketing collateral should include—and reject—in order to stay compliant. The New York Cannabis Law § 81 states that packaging must meet “requirements similar to the federal ‘Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970,’ 15 U.S.C. Sec 1471 et seq.;” 

Dispensary Marketing in New York

As of 2022, New York State boasts 40 medical cannabis dispensing facilities, with overall dispensary numbers poised to grow once legal recreational retail locations are able to open their doors. More than 220 legal cannabis farms across the state currently supply those dispensaries. But hundreds more legacy retailers continue to sell clandestine cannabis in the interim,or using loopholes like transfer laws and clubs to “gift” cannabis to customers. While the state of New York is eager for these underground retailers to cease and desist, other legal states with a long history of black market cannabis like California suggest it might be easier said than done.

Indeed, the New York Times reports that Indigenous tribes are asserting their sovereignty on reservation lands to open dispensaries in locations like the Shinnecock Nation on Long Island or the Cayuga Nation near Syracuse. Some of those gray market reservation dispensaries rely on flashy advertisements and neon signs to draw in customers, and proponents assert that they can set their own rules for operating and advertising cannabis retail spaces on tribal land.

Those arguments will eventually be proved out in court, no doubt, but until then tribal governments along with non-Indigenous unlicensed retailers are hoping to keep one foot in the door.

Cannabis Brand Marketing in New York

While dispensaries may not have access to all the same marketing channels as other brick-and-mortar retailers, all cannabis brands can reap the benefits of event marketing throughout the year. 4/20 is absolutely the biggest day of the year for cannabis marketing and retail sales for cannabis brands across the country. The April holiday has long been an opportunity to celebrate cannabis culture and offer deals and specials to enthused customers.

When the legal recreational market does open fully, New York cannabis brands will have plenty of opportunities for recognition in April and beyond. Many already have a head start on success as large, vertically-integrated MSOs like Cresco Labs and Green Thumb Industries,both headquartered in Chicago. Others have chosen to make the Big Apple their home, like Columbia Care, iAnthus and Ascend Wellness. Meanwhile, small, first-in medical cannabis companies in New York, like women-owned Etain, take advantage of personal stories to convey messaging about the benefits of edibles, tinctures, concentrates and flower. 

Top 10 Cannabis Brands in New York

From From Utica to Yonkers, Rochester to New Rochelle, Buffalo to New York City, and Syracuse to Albany, New York is a diverse state geographically and culturally. As new medical and recreational dispensaries open up, they’re sure to reflect the wide ranging character of Upstate, Downstate, the rural west and the urban east.

Elmwood Cannabis Company Buffalo
The Botanist Farmingdale, Queens, Middletown, Buffalo
RISE Rochester, Manhattan, Halfmoon Clifton Park
Etain Manhattan, Syracuse, Yonkers, Kingston
Vireo Health Albany, Johnson City, Queens, White Plains
Verilife Albany, Amherst, Bronx, Liverpool
Sunnyside New Hartford, Bardonia, Huntington Station, Brooklyn,
MedMen Buffalo, Long Island, Manhattan, Syracuse
Columbia Care Brooklyn, Manhattan, Riverhead, Rochester
Be Brooklyn, Wappingers Falls, Staten Island

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