The director of Maryland NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) submitted a complaint last week to the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC), petitioning to have Culta’s cannabis licenses revoked for violating advertising guidelines.
Maryland law prohibits medical cannabis businesses from advertising products in a way that:
Displays the use of cannabis, including the consumption, smoking, or vaping of cannabis;
Encourages or represents the recreational use of cannabis;
Targets or is attractive to minors including a cartoon character, a mascot, or any other depiction that is commonly used to market products to minors;
Encourages or promotes cannabis for use as an intoxicant.
“Culta, LLC markets its medicinal cannabis as recreational marijuana and promotes a recreational marijuana culture to Maryland youth as a core part of its business,” Luke Jones director of Maryland NORML said.
The complaint states, “to protect the integrity of MMCC administered authorities and to prevent other license holders from disregarding the spirit and letter of Maryland’s medical cannabis program, we request that you fulfill your enforcement responsibilities by revoking licenses issued to Culta, LLC.”
The complaint includes multiple instances of what Jones believes are advertising violations by the company, including a Culta-sponsored music video by Baltimore rapper Double G as part of their “Roll One” ad campaign. The music video posted on Double G’s channel includes multiple images of people smoking cannabis, though the teaser video posted on Culta’s Youtube channel does not.
The description of Double G’s video says: “big shoutout to Culta for sponsoring this song/video. They bring some of the highest quality medicine that’s available on the Maryland medical market. Their Dosidos 22-22 is a MUST TRY if you are an MMCC patient.”
In the complaint, Jones includes Culta’s frequent use of social media influencers to advertise their products and their emphasis on platforms such as Instagram for promotion.
Jones told The Outlaw Report that Instagram is the company’s most active platform, “where they collaborate with a number of influential personalities in their effort to establish a youth-oriented, recreational consumer culture around their brand and products.”
Jones also said Culta promotes recreational cannabis products through its collaboration with Cookies, one of the top cannabis brands in the nation, founded by rapper and cannabis advocate Berner. Cookies flower is some of the best selling in the country and their release of new strains regularly have Maryland’s medical cannabis patients lined up at the door, typically selling out within a day. Cookies is active in both medical and recreational markets, and Culta is the only cultivator in Maryland with permission to grow Cookies strains.
Jones said this Cookies collaboration provides Culta with a crucial advantage by establishing themselves as the exclusive Maryland provider of the most sought-after cannabis brands in the country. When the state fully legalizes cannabis, Jones said, this collaboration “positions the company to dominate Maryland’s recreational cannabis market” before it’s even born.
This complaint is on the tail of a Culta boycott, organized by Jones and other cannabis advocates in Maryland. Some medical cannabis patients boycotted Culta products in April to raise awareness about Culta CEO Mackie Barch’s perceived opposition to home grow provisions and micro-grower licenses in Maryland’s failed adult-use legalization bill.
Jones believes Barch had influence on the Senate version of the legislation. In an April interview with The Outlaw Report, he said “[Culta is] using their status as an MMCC license holder to position themselves to dominate the adult use market, and then to intervene in legislation to that end.”
In an email response, Culta told The Outlaw Report “Mackie Barch had safety concerns regarding home grow but CULTA and Mackie have never opposed it and have no plans to do so in the future.”
This statement contradicts an interview Mackie Barch did with “The Pivot,” a podcast by the Baltimore Business Journal in January 2019. In the interview, Barch said “We are not supportive of home grow. And a lot of people say ‘you know, why aren’t you in favor of home grow? That’s ridiculous’ The reason we don’t support it is because there are no testing requirements in people’s homes.”
Culta did not address Luke Jones’ complaint to the MMCC in their statement to The Outlaw Report.