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

The United States is a much different place than it was 80 years ago. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 criminalized cannabis for the first time in U.S. history. 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. 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. Requiring defendants to incriminate themselves to obtain the stamp violated the Fifth Amendment. Congress quickly passed the Controlled Substances Act a few months later. Possession and consumption of marijuana remained a federal offense as a result.

Attitudes towards cannabis have changed dramatically in the 21st century. A 2015 Gallup poll found that 58% of Americans supported legalization of marijuana. That’s 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 use in that same time frame. Meanwhile 21 more states allow medicinal marijuana and/or have decriminalized the plant.

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

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 products reached $6.7 billion in 2016, according to data compiled by Arcview Market Research. That’s a 30% increase from the previous year. 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.

Cannabis retailers and growers talk about their primary products on company blogs. But the cannabis political landscape still makes it a sensitive 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

National and international companies should not mention cannabis on their blogs. But local and regional businesses with finite customer bases and physical presence have more freedom in this regard.

The above map from Governing.com shows 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.

Relevance equals legitimacy

Auto repair shops, toy stores and accounting firms have no business mentioning 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 is known as cannabinoid-induced feeding, aka “munchies.” Travel blogs can provide maps and information on the best recreational cannabis shops in Colorado, Oregon and other legal states.

Companies with genuine, business-related reasons for discussing 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. Use the same approach when presenting negative information about cannabis, such as “it leads to other things.” Stating opinions on any controversial subject, regardless of which side you’re on, alienates some of your reader base and completely derails the discussion. Stick to indisputable facts and everything else will take care of itself.

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