GKV Selected as Agency Partner for Maryland Cannabis Administration

The Maryland Cannabis Administration (MCA) has selected GKV, a full-service communications agency, to develop a multiyear public education and communications campaign about the legalization of cannabis for adult use, which goes into effect July 1.

With the new law allowing adults 21 and older to legally purchase and possess specific amounts of cannabis, the campaign will inform adults who choose to consume about issues including safe and responsible use, the dangers of driving under the influence and preventing youth access. GKV is also working with MCA on crucial social equity outreach efforts.

Under the new law, all current medical dispensaries have the opportunity to convert their licenses to sell both medical and adult-use cannabis beginning July 1. The law also subsequently establishes an initial licensing round exclusively for social equity applicants, helping to ensure communities disproportionately harmed by cannabis possession arrests are prioritized in the legal, adult-use industry.

“The Maryland Cannabis Administration has placed its trust in GKV to help educate Marylanders about critical aspects related to this new law. We relish the challenge and will develop a comprehensive approach for letting Marylanders and visitors to our state know the essential information and details,” said GKV President and COO Kevin Kempske. “We also will assist with raising awareness about the MCA and its role as the authoritative regulatory source of information on this subject.”

GKV was selected for this project due to the agency’s vast experience with healthcare campaigns in Maryland. GKV spearheaded the state’s COVID 19 public awareness efforts, in partnership with the Maryland Department of Health (MDH), creating the Masks on Maryland and GoVAX campaigns. Currently, GKV is supporting the Maryland Managed Care Organization Association (MMCOA) in creating a campaign to assist with public awareness about Medicaid re-enrollment requirements following the end of the federal COVID 19 public emergency.

GKV will work closely with the MCA and other partners, including MDH, to create a campaign including television, radio, digital and outdoor advertising, website, social media outreach, point-of-sale materials for licensed dispensaries, print materials, public events and more.

“We’re focused on prioritizing social equity and educating the public about safe and responsible use. The new law provides adults in Maryland with access to legal, regulated cannabis, but it’s imperative that those who choose to consume understand this is an impairing substance that requires responsible use,” said Will Tilburg, Acting Executive Director of the MCA.

Dawn Berkowitz, MCA Deputy Executive Director, added: “We’ll be communicating proactively about responsible adult use, which includes planning ahead to avoid impaired driving, storing cannabis locked and away from children to prevent accidents, and being mindful of smoke-free spaces, which includes everywhere other than private residences. We’ve developed point-of-sale messaging for licensed dispensaries to inform new and novice consumers of potential risks, especially related to edible products, which can have delayed and long-lasting intoxicating effects.”

Other important messages to be communicated with the public include:

  • The new law makes it legal to purchase and possess specific amounts of cannabis in various forms and grow up to two cannabis plants per household for personal use.
  • Purchasing from a licensed dispensary assures a consistent, reliable lab-tested product.
  • Edible cannabis products can have a delayed onset of effects; adult consumers should start with a low dose and wait to feel the effect before consuming more to avoid overconsumption.
  • Use of cannabis by minors can have negative impacts on the developing brain.
  • Use of cannabis while pregnant or breastfeeding is not recommended.
  • Smoking cannabis is not allowed in indoor and outdoor public spaces.
  • Cannabis should be kept in a lockbox away from children and pets.

Medical cannabis has been sold in Maryland to certified medical patients since December 2017. In November 2022, 66 percent of Marylanders voted in favor of legalizing cannabis for use by adults over 21. The Cannabis Reform Act established the MCA as the new regulatory agency overseeing the sale of cannabis and prioritizing equity in cannabis licensing. The MCA will oversee policies, regulations and best practices for the cultivation, production and sale of cannabis to medical and adult-use consumers statewide.

There are currently more than 163,000 Maryland residents who are certified medical patients. As of July 1, more than 4 million Maryland adults and visitors will be able to legally purchase and possess cannabis for personal use. A recent Goucher poll suggests that 16 percent of state residents are “cannabis curious,” saying they might try cannabis after it becomes legal.

To learn more about the Cannabis Reform Act and legalized adult use of cannabis, visit cannabis.maryland.gov.

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