How cannabis retailers stay in compliance with text messaging

For cannabis retailers, text messaging (SMS) is one of the primary ways they communicate offers, deals and updates to their customers. And staying in compliance is not only important, it’s the law.

Cannabis marketers love text messaging

SMS text messaging is a channel of communication available to upwards of 98 percent of consumers. And, according to research conducted for the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA), the average response time for text messages is 90 seconds.

For cannabis marketers, text messaging is a powerful tool they can use to reach their customers. But cannabis retailers are also held to very specific regulations for how they market and communicate to their customers.

This makes it imperative that laws and best practices are followed when it comes to text messaging. This means cannabis marketers need to stay in compliance with the law.

Understanding text messaging regulations for compliance

In the United States, cannabis is not federally legal. And, it is listed as a Schedule 1 substance by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Both the CITA and individual states heavily regulate SMS text messaging for SHAFT (sex, hate, alcohol, firearms and tobacco) content. This includes cannabis, CBD and other related products.

More importantly, cannabis marketing is directly governed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The FCC may fine businesses $500 to $1,500 per unlawful message, not including any damages or other legal fees.

Examples of what can be considered illegal within a message include:

  • Use transactional language, e.g. “buy now”
  • Promote sales or offers, e.g. “20% off”
  • Imply health benefits, e.g. “lose weight”
  • Promotes recreational use
  • Marketing cannabis in states where it is not legal

A compliance requirement from the TCPA requires that businesses use a double opt-in method prior to sending text messages. A double opt-in, or double-consent, requires the recipient to give direct consent prior to receiving the text message.

This means that unless you have received consent to send someone text messages, you are not in compliance with FCC regulations.

Note, while this post is not meant to convey legal advice, we do recommend our customers follow these best practices and seek legal advice regarding cannabis text message compliance.

For more best practices, see our Text Message Marketing Best Practices for Cannabis.

How to run a cannabis text message campaign in compliance

The good news is you can use text messaging as part of your cannabis-related marketing efforts as long as you stay in compliance and follow some best practices.

Get consent prior to sending text messages

As noted above, the FCC requires opt-ins from consumers prior to sending text messages. There are multiple ways you can opt your customers into receiving text messages from you:

  • When shopping online and signing up for a loyalty program
  • When checking out in the store
  • As part of your point of sale system
  • Texting a keyword, such as “START” to your text message number

Once a customer has agreed to receive text messages, we recommend running an opt-in campaign.

An opt-in campaign sends a text message to the opted-in number and asks the recipient to confirm that they wish to receive text messages.

Include an easy way to opt-out

Recipients should be able to easily opt-out of your text message campaigns, too. Replying with STOP, QUIT, REMOVE or other keywords should opt the recipient out of text messages.

We recommend including within your text, “Reply STOP to opt-out” in all of their messages. While you do not need to include this line within your text message to stay within compliance, it is strongly recommended.

DailyStory makes it easy to add this with a single click while building a text message.

Monitor your text message replies

Text messaging is a two-way conversation, and you should always monitor the replies to the text messages you send out. Occasionally, you will need to manually opt-out a recipient.

If you receive messages such as these, you may be sending to a non-opted-in number:

  • “Who is this”
  • “Who sent this”
  • “I didn’t sign up for these”

If you receive these types of replies to any of your cannabis text messages, your compliance might be at risk.

Honor opt-outs

When the time comes and you change from one marketing platform to another, such as moving to DailyStory, ensure that your opt-out settings are honored.

Honoring customer opt-outs is critical to staying in compliance with federal regulations.

Use deliverability scoring

DailyStory includes a deliverability scoring tool for text messages. It can help catch messages that include objectionable or illegal text.

While the deliverability score of your text message doesn’t guarantee compliance, it can help and prevent carrier violations, too.

What to avoid when running a cannabis text message campaign

When sending text messages to cannabis customers, there are some important things you should not do to ensure you stay in compliance.

Never purchase lists of mobile phone numbers

Do not purchase or share lists of mobile phone numbers. None of these recipients have opted in to receive your text messages. This is illegal, and you will be directly out of compliance with FCC regulations.

Don’t send text messages to numbers that are not opted-in

Same rules apply, even if you have a mobile number for a customer: If you do not have a customer opted-in to receive text messages, you cannot send them text messages.

Don’t send messages to numbers that have opted out

Once a recipient opts out of text messages, you cannot send them any text messages until they opt-in again.

DailyStory tracks the opt-in status for every recipient automatically. Recipients that have opted-out cannot receive text messages.

Don’t market in states where cannabis is not legal

For many cannabis retailers, this is a difficult problem to solve. As an example, a dispensary in Colorado may receive out-of-state visitors. If those out-of-state visitors live in states where cannabis is not legal, you should not be sending them text messages.

DailyStory solves this by allowing customer segmentation by geographic location. This allows you to only market to customers within a given distance of your store or within your state.

Not only will this keep you in compliance, but it can also save you money.

In conclusion, focus on compliance

Focusing on the compliance of your cannabis text message marketing ensures that customers who want and expect your messages receive them. Text messaging is a powerful tool for cannabis marketers and following the guidelines in this article will help you run successful campaigns.

For more best practices, see Text Message Marketing Best Practices for Cannabis.

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