Why Language Matters in the Cannabis Industry

Why Language Matters When It Comes to Business and Everyday Use in the Cannabis Industry

Cannabis is a touchy subject. And, because it’s not legal across the board quite yet, it’s important to be highly selective in the words you choose to describe and market any cannabis derived products. It’s a tricky business to be in but can be quite rewarding if you have all of the technicalities sorted out. Here’s why language matters and is especially important when it comes to business and everyday use in the cannabis industry.

The Truth of the Matter

Cannabis, the botanical name for the hemp plant, has many names that we’ve all heard at one point or another- the most common of these probably being marijuana. Although marijuana offers several health benefits1

to those dealing with a number of diseases, it was first and foremost recognized as a pleasure drug associated with the lesser-than members of society due to propaganda and the spread of misinformation. This, coupled with the laws against it, established the judgmental views2

and negative stigma that the term marijuana still carries to this day. Cannabis, however, bears less of this burden because of its association with more medicinal properties3

of the plant. It’s important to understand the different associations with these terms when choosing names for cannabis derived products or creating a marketing campaign.

Managing FDA Legality

It should go without saying that the FDA is a force to be reckoned with. More specifically, it’s a force that you should not mess with. Period. It isn’t hard to play by their rules though; here’s how it works. The FDA determines what’s what based on how you describe the product. If your product’s description suggests that it is “intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or is an “article” (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the boy of man or other animals,” it will be regulated by the FDA4

as a drug. But you can only make a drug claim if you get it approved by the FDA, which costs obscene amounts of money for clinical trials. If you make any claims about curing something in any aspect of your cannabis business, you’re putting yourself at risk for getting caught by the FDA.

You Can’t Label It a Dietary Supplement

If you think you can outsmart the FDA by claiming your cannabis product is a dietary supplement or food, think again. The FDA mandates5

that products containing THC or CBD can’t be sold as dietary supplements because they are also active ingredients in FDA-approved drugs. Active ingredients that are found in approved drugs can’t be re-introduced as a dietary supplement or food. You are also restricted from making any kinds of health claims in a similar fashion as one would say that calcium builds strong bones.

So, What Can You Say?

While it may seem that the FDA’s cannabis language regulations are barring you from saying anything about your product, you can find a small ray of hope in their structure and function claims rule. Under this guideline6

, “claims may describe the role of a nutrient or dietary ingredient intended to affect the normal structure or function of the human body”. Think of words like regulate, stimulate, maintain, restore, promote, raise, or lower. Keep in mind that you still have to specifically state that the claim is associated with a non-disease condition.

Looking to revamp your marketing campaign or product design? Here at Herban Creative, our team of experienced designers, copywriters, and digital strategists are ready to get your cannabis business the recognition it deserves while abiding by the FDA’s regulations. Contact us today for more information!

  1. “Medical Marijuana FAQ.” Edited by Neil Lava, WebMD, WebMD, 2018, www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/medical-marijuana-faq.

  2. Ivanov, Kaloyan. “High Times: The Evolution of the Stigma on Marijuana and Attempts to Tear It Down.” High Times: The Evolution of the Stigma on Marijuana and Attempts to Tear It down | Eukaryon | Lake Forest College, www.lakeforest.edu/live/news/8003-high-times-the-evolution-of-the-stigma-on.

  3. “Marijuana as Medicine.” NIDA, National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2019, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana-medicine.

  4. “Eating Your Words: How to Avoid Legal Issues Marketing Cannabis Consumables.” Cannabis Industry Journal, Cannabis Industry Journal, 23 Apr. 2019, cannabisindustryjournal.com/feature_article/eating-your-words-how-to-avoid-legal-issues-marketing-cannabis-consumables/.

  5. “FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products: Q&A.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, 2019, www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-regulation-cannabis-and-cannabis-derived-products-questions-and-answers.

  6. “Structure/Function Claims.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, 2017, www.fda.gov/food/food-labeling-nutrition/structurefunction-claims.

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