Sacramento Bee Begins Running Medical Marijuana Ads

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Ads for pot shops have cropped up in alternative weekly newspapers at a rapid clip over the past few years. Example: I recently examined an issue of Westword, a Denver weekly, and found 72 advertisements for medical marijuana dispensaries and related businesses.

But mainstream daily newspapers have largely steered clear of running advertisements for marijuana centers, citing the fact that these businesses are still illegal federally. The Denver Post has run a limited number of ads on its website, though I don’t think it has in the print edition.

So it’s particularly interesting that the Sacramento Bee in California has now started to run dispensary ads in its Friday entertainment section.

This, folks, is a large mainstream daily publication finally succumbing to market forces. I believe it could pave the way for more newspapers to begin running ads for dispensaries. The newspaper business is crumbling, and medical marijuana ads could provide a potentially lucrative source of new revenue for daily publications.

Whether or not it’s a wise investment for a dispensary is another matter. According to News10/KXTV, the Sacramento Bee will charge as much as $3,000 for a full-page color ad in its Ticket section. That’s a hefty price tag for a dispensary. With the average medical marijuana center pulling in between $25 and $50 per transaction (a rough estimate based on my conversations with owners), a dispensary taking out a full-page ad would have to get 60 to 120 new customers just to break even on the effort.

I’d want to do some market research before shelling out this kind of money. Weekend entertainment sections are usually among the most-read parts of a daily newspaper. With a daily circulation of 280,000, your audience would be huge. But it won’t do you much good if patients aren’t willing to travel very far for their medical marijuana. If that’s the case, you’ll only be able to lure new customers in the areas surrounding your shop – meaning a big chunk of that circulation number wouldn’t matter anyway. (We’re actually trying to figure out how far patients will drive for a particular dispensary as part of this questionnaire). It’s also important to look into readership demographics. You want to make sure the people thumbing through a daily newspaper’s weekend entertainment section are the same ones that would come through your front doors.

Regardless, it gives dispensaries yet another advertising option and makes the industry look a little more legit.