#Happy420: Is writing about cannabis on company blogs still taboo?

The United States is a much different place than it was when the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 first made cannabis illegal. The federal law required anyone who possessed or distributed marijuana to obtain and publicly display a federal tax stamp.

But the process of acquiring the tax stamp was viewed as an admission of criminal activity in a court of law since doctors and commercial hemp farmers were typically the only people issued tax stamps without much hassle. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law as unconstitutional in 1969, ruling that it required defendants to incriminate themselves in violation of the Fifth Amendment. Congress quickly passed the Controlled Substances Act  months later to ensure possession and consumption of marijuana remained a federal offense.

The turn of the 21st century brought with it dramatic changes in attitudes towards cannabis. A 2015 Gallup poll found that 58% of Americans supported legalization of marijuana, a significant increase from the 36% that supported legalization 10 years earlier. Eight U.S. states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington) have legalized marijuana for recreational in that same time frame, while 21 more states allow medicinal marijuana and/or have decriminalized the plant.

Despite changing attitudes, the legal conundrum between federal and state law enforcement officials complicates matters. A memo issued by the U.S. Department of Justice earlier this month indicated that it will be enforcing federal marijuana laws even in states that have legalized it for recreational use. Eleven U.S. Senators declared in March that they will oppose enforcement of federal marijuana laws in their respective states.

Personal attitudes and government squabbling aside, the cannabis industry has morphed into a powerful economic force. The state of Colorado hit the $1 billion mark in cannabis sale by itself in 2016. Total North American revenues for both recreational and medicinal marijuana, including edibles, reached $6.7 billion in 2016, a 30% increase from the previous year, according to data compiled by Arcview Market Research. Tom Adams, editor-in-chief for Arcview, told Forbes the only industries he’s ever seen experience that level of compound growth were post-dot-com era broadband sales and cable television subscriptions in the 1990s.

Recreational and medicinal cannabis retailers and growers obviously talk about their primary products on company blogs. But the economic and political landscape around cannabis still makes it a sensitive, albeit potentially popular, subject matter on company blogs in other industries. Here are a few things to consider before writing about cannabis on your company blog.

Location, Location

It would not be in the best interest of national and international companies to ever mention cannabis on their blog. But local and regional businesses with finite reach as far as customer base and physical presence have more freedom in this regard.

The above map from Governing.com show obvious geographic trends pertaining to marijuana attitudes across the country. Companies that are physically located in bright-green states, and have customer bases within said boundaries, should feel comfortable writing content about cannabis. All other should avoid it if possible.

Relevance equals legitimacy

Auto repair shops, toy stores and solar energy firms have no business even mentioning the subject of cannabis on their blogs. But yoga instructors and massage therapists may speak to the relaxation properties of certain cannabis strains. Personal trainers and fitness instructors helping people lose weight may want to discourage cannabis due to what known as cannabinoid-induced feeding, aka “munchies.” Travel blogs may want to provide maps and information on the best recreational cannabis shops in Colorado, Oregon and other legal states.

Companies with genuine, business-related reasons to discuss cannabis should feel comfortable doing so on their blogs.

Stick to the facts

Cannabis is a subject that triggers different emotions in different demographics. Most people have hard-wired viewpoints and are unlikely to be swayed by other’s opinions.

When writing anything about cannabis, always utilize original sources. Don’t make claims such as “marijuana cures cancer” without citing reputable, verifiable university and medical studies. The same approach is necessary when presenting seemingly negative information about cannabis, such as “it leads to other things.” Stating your opinion on any controversial subject, regardless of which side you’re on, alienates some of your reader base and completely derails the discussion. Stick to the indisputable facts and everything else will take care of itself.

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