Email Marketing Under Attack in R.I.

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Rhode Island’s attorney general has put the kibosh on email marketing campaigns for the medical marijuana industry there.

Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin contacted the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center to denounce the company’s direct email marketing campaigns, which had promoted discounts on medical marijuana products during the Holidays.

The dispensary has stopped the campaigns. A representative said it will cease marketing its products and discounts altogether.

Whether Kilmartin’s victory motivates other U.S. attorney generals to bully dispensaries for marketing via email could have a serious impact on the medical marijuana industry.

Direct email marketing has become a common business practice. Patients willingly sign up for email blasts because they want to know about new products, discounts and special strains. There are companies that even specialize in the practice.

Many medical marijuana states have laws that govern where the industry can and cannot advertise. But there are few if any laws that protect a dispensary owner’s right to promote specific messages in emails, such as discounts or sales.

The Slater Compassion Center’s campaigns promoted a 30% discount on edibles, a 20% discount on a patient’s entire purchase and a four-pack of various strains for $40. One of the campaigns was titled “Tired of the Winter Blues,” and the other was called “12 Days of Christmas.”

Kilmartin, a retired police officer, said dispensaries should be prohibited from even allowing discounts or having sales on medical marijuana products.

“Can you imagine the public outcry if the local pharmacy started offering [half] off Oxycontin or medicinal drugs?” he said in a press release.

Chris Reilly, a spokesman for the dispensary, voiced  his support for the business practice.

“Our discounts and promotions were targeted to licensed, adult patients of our center to offer medicine in a more affordable way,” he said.