What Cannabis Businesses Can Learn From the Alcohol Prohibition

Bartender pouring wine and person smoking marijuana joint.t.
(Top) Bartender pouring wine. Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash. (Bottom) Person smoking marijuana joint. Photo by Dimitri Bång on Unsplash.

In January 1920 alcohol was banned from being manufactured, transported or sold. This act drove up organized crimes, speakeasies (illegal drinking saloons), and homemade liquor and moonshines. President Herbert Hoover called the prohibition “a great social and economic experiment” – an experiment that was dubbed a failure because it only lasted for 13 years and Congress repealed the ban in 1933.

Marijuana was officially outlawed in the entire United States in 1970 after the Controlled Substances Act was passed. And even though the act of decriminalization started in the early 1970s by certain states – beginning with Texas in 1973 declaring possession of four ounces or less a misdemeanor, the battle for cannabis legalization has been a much harder path compared to the alcohol prohibition.

Today, Americans’ association with cannabis has come a long way since the early days of the beginning of marijuana prohibition. A 2018 survey by Pew Research Center saw 62 percent supported for the legalization of cannabis, up from 16 percent in the 1990s and 32 percent in the 2000s.

With that said, however, the end of alcohol prohibition can be a guide to future goals for cannabis entrepreneurs as the nation slowly work its way to ending the cannabis ban.

After 1933, post alcohol prohibition proved that sales take time to adapt. Whether you’ve already started your cannabis business or plan to start, consider the following:

  1. Educate: Generations have been taught that marijuana is a Schedule I drug, deeming it a high potential for abuse with no accepted medical use. You need to implement the information, even for non-psychoactive products like CBD or hemp, explaining the drug’s effects, how to use it, and when to take it. You can apply this content in packagings, websites, brochures, videos, etc. However, be sure to meet compliance with federal and state regulations that forbid cannabis companies from making medical claims. Currently, there isn’t enough research available to support cannabis or CBD as solutions for specific conditions.
  2. Opt for Non-traditional Marketing: After the prohibition ended, most alcohol companies supported a semi-voluntary advertising ban of liquor products like vodka, whiskey, gin, and tequila on TV and radio until the 1990s. Cannabis use is still somewhat controversial and many mainstream digital and print media choose to dodge the dispute fully by not allowing cannabis products advertisement. So, instead, research other ways such as social media marketing and advertising, influencer marketing, and email campaigns.
  3. Widen Your Audience Range: Don’t just market to young audiences like Millennials or late Gen Z, include Gen X and Baby Boomers to the mix. Older demographics are curious about cannabis products, both non-psychoactive and psychoactive. During the Prohibition, campaigns against alcohol portrayed drinkers in a bad way. Cannabis users and products face the same stigma. By educating (as mentioned in Item 1) and making the information available to a wider audience, the battle to stump the stain about cannabis is greater.

For more on this story, read What Can The End Of Alcohol Prohibition Teach Cannabis Entrepreneurs? by Peter Daisyme on Greenwich Time.

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