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To Text or Not to Text; 3 Pressing Questions in the Cannabis Industry

If asking from a marketing standpoint; “is texting my cannabis customers a good idea?”

The answer is a resounding yes! 

If inquiring from a legal standpoint; the answer is “maybe not, depending on where you’re located.” 

And if asking from a technical standpoint, the answer, for the layperson, is “what the heck is a 10-digit long-code?” 

Do Cannabis Consumers Like Using SMS to Communicate?

Over 70% of consumers list SMS as their preferred method of communication with businesses, for tasks like appointment setting, order notification and pick up, and product and availability inquiries. 

For cannabis companies at the dispensary level, SMS services are a highly favorable way to engage with customers. With automated SMS services for order status notifications, workers on the shop floor are free to engage and consult with shop-goers, fulfill orders, and keep things running without having to spend a lot of time on the phone. 

Is Using SMS Legal for Cannabis Companies?

In Canada, SMS marketing communications and order notifications are permitted nationally for qualified providers, given the legality of cannabis and hemp distribution. 

Sadly, in the United States, changes in the landscape of SMS consumer communications have some platforms shying away from the cannabis industry entirely. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Twilio stopped servicing cannabis companies in early 2021. This is due largely to tightening regulations involving 10DLC, which, put simply, regulates business to consumer (or A2P: “Application to Person”) SMS practices, favoring consumers and limiting spam. 

Twilio offers cannabis and CBD related businesses the alternative of email via Sendgrid API, with the safety measure of age-gating (having consumers verify their birthdate) in place. Another Twilio product, Twilio Programmable Voice, is able to bypass the stringent and complex restrictions that are placed on SMS B2C and A2P communications.

Another way around this is the use of Telephone Answering Services, which have a wide variety of B2C and C2B communication options. 

The choice to forgo participation with cannabis companies involves a combination of legal measures, and the technical processes of businesses with high volumes of SMS communication to their customers. The process has evolved from requiring a 4-6 digit short code to most recently requiring a 10DLC, or “10 Digit Long Code,” which complicates matters, even for powerhouses like AT&T and T-Mobile. 

SMS code length aside, legality is a heavily weighing factor. As of 2021, because cannabis sales are not legal at the federal level in the United States, cannabis companies registration with national SMS service providers is illegal as well. 

The combination of these factors led to a filtering of SMS communications from dispensaries to their customers in the spring and summer of 2021, which frustrated many dispensary owners who used SMS marketing. Consumers weren’t getting their messages, alerting them to deals and special offers.

Will Cannabis Consumers Read Your SMS?

While SMS marketing is much more likely to get eyeballs than email (SMS marketing communications have a 98% open rate in comparison with email’s 20%); people only feel positively about receiving SMS marketing if they’ve opted in, and are *aware* they’ve opted in. 

This is where regulatory bodies like the FCC use laws like the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) to make sure that consumers aren’t being constantly bombarded with ads. Consumers have to opt-in to receiving SMS marketing, and so this outreach is generally favorable, because they’ve agreed to participate in it, meaning they’ve already got a fondness for the business and its marketing efforts. 

Opt-out rates stay relatively low with SMS marketing, barring that companies don’t send 2 or more texts within a one-week period. In the case that they do, opt-out rates spike dramatically. When using SMS communication – follow the zoomer idiom; nobody likes a double-texter. 

SMS and Your Cannabis Organization

Whether you’re a consumer or producer, SMS is a great way to be in touch regarding order statuses, sales promotions, and the like. 

And, as covered, there are plenty of ways for cannabis businesses to stay legal and above-board, while still providing their consumers with the ease-of-communication that’s demanded in the modern marketplace. 

AnswerNet Agriculture can guide you through the weeds of complex regulations and communications. SMS is only a small piece of the edible pie when it comes to optimizing your operations. 

Even after this Q&A, we’re sure you’re left with more questions. Get in touch with us and set up a conversation to get more clarity on your best path forward.