Text message marketing has become central to many cannabis dispensary’s marketing strategies. However, the landscape for text message marketing has been undergoing major changes over the past few years and has generated lots of confusion. On December 10th, 2018, the major wireless carriers (often referred to as MNO’s (Mobile Networks Operators) such as AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile implemented a new set of rules governing how cannabis brands can send texts that has been termed “10DLC” referring to the ten-digit longcodes they apply too.
While the rollout for 10DLC has been gradual, by 2022 it is becoming increasingly more enforced with the bottom line being that the only way to effectively and compliantly send texts from a cannabis dispensary is to be registered for 10DLC. In this article, we’ll discuss how the Mobile Network Operators new 10DLC rules and regulations affect cannabis texting.
Generally speaking, there are three main types of text messages in use today: Short codes, toll-free long codes, and long local codes. On top of this, there are two main types of text message traffic routes: A2P and P2P.
Application-to-Person messaging means business applications like springbig or any other marketing software is used to send mass messages.
Person-to-Person on the other hand is traditional texting and is exactly what it sounds like: sending messages from one person to person.
Traditionally, A2P messages go through short codes, but unfortunately, these require the campaigns to be vetted for and thus bar cannabis businesses from using them in marketing. This is because the primary MNO trade association, CTIA, institutes best practices under what is known as SHAFT guidelines to prevent unauthorized content related to specific topics.
This is an acronym for ‘Sex, Hate, Alcohol, Firearms, and Tobacco’. Cannabis was eventually included under this umbrella as the legal industry took off, making cannabis marketing via text messaging subject to heavy filtering and regulations.
Short codes are 5- or 6-digit numbers made for businesses looking to send out mass text message campaigns. These kinds of messages are made for sending millions of messages a day but come with drawbacks like a long process for campaign approvals, cost, and low deliverability. Due to the industry guidelines and heavy filtering, short codes aren’t a viable option for cannabis businesses.
Toll-free long codes are a good alternative to short codes in A2P messaging. They’re cheap and appear as 10-digit phone numbers, but can appear foreign to customers receiving them compared to the other options. On top of this, they’re only capable of a few thousand messages per day, making them ineffective for mass messaging.
These are the typical phone numbers that you’re used to seeing with 10-digits and designed for P2P texting. This means they are only meant to support a couple of hundred messages per day, as they aren’t intended for large-scale texting campaigns. On top of that limitation, using them for A2P texting is against CTIA guidelines.
While all of these three methods have been used for text message marketing, all of them present different issues when it comes to application to person texting in the cannabis industry, such as strict regulations or limitations. Mostly because it is crucial for carriers to ensure their customers receive trustworthy texts.
In the past, businesses that used short codes or P2P messaging faced compliance risks because numerous other companies were using these same numbers; if just one of these companies started sending spam then carriers would shut down the entire short code, for all users regardless of whether or not they actually sent a non-compliant message. Especially since carriers have specifically banned cannabis companies from using short codes this was a risky and non-compliant method.
This is where 10DLC comes in.
In short, 10DLC are local 10-digit numbers that can support the high volume of text messages that successful A2P messaging requires. The US long codes widely used by businesses up until now were only meant for P2P messaging. Because of this, carriers have always considered the current sending method used by businesses to text consumers to be an unsanctioned SMS route.
That was until third-party companies came in and started developing APIs that can send mass messages from 10-digit long codes and carriers began to realize the superiority of 10DLC for A2P. Now, 10DLC provides better delivery quality and fewer restrictions which is perfect for the cannabis industry.
10DLC text messaging process is specially designed and permitted for business messaging. It offers delivery reliability and security for business senders in return for requiring both business and campaign registrations from the companies, cutting down on campaign approval times, and increasing deliverability.
These features make it superior to short or long local codes that are unauthorized for messages related to cannabis marketing. It also supports the volume of messaging that is required for mass text messaging campaigns, making it a better alternative to toll-free long codes.
However, with the 10DLC implementation, the cost of non-compliance is increasing which affects the cannabis industry directly. Wireless carriers have always enforced TCPA and SHAFT guidelines but now the regulations are getting stricter and fees are higher for those who don’t comply with these regulations. We believe this makes it even more attractive than before to keep your communications compliant with regulations!
Starting February 1, 2021, long code text messages sent to T-Mobile and AT&T customers started the move to its new 10DLC A2P service. Long codes are now given the official designation to be sent en masse by a business application like springbig.
While there was a grace period that expired around June 1, 2021, to allow for an incremental adaption of the guidelines, by now all messaging traffic for major carriers like AT&T, Sprint, and T-mobile need to be fully vetted and approved for 10DLC. Verizon launched its version of 10DLC in early 2020 but did not require a vetting process – just an increase in filtering for spam, scams, and unauthorized content related to SHAFT (Sex, Hate, Alcohol, Firearms, and Tobacco).
Business will be vetted along the following parameters:
|Compliance Violation Type||Explanation||Cost of Violation|
|Text Enablement||If a complaint is filed with T-Mobile alleging that a business is using 10 digit long-code numbers before receiving verification and a letter of authorization from the campaign registry||$10,000 pass-through fee|
|Grey Route||Attempting to mask A2P messages as being sent from P2P routes.||$10 fee per message (This has been waived until further notice)|
|Evasion||Attempting to evade program rules using any of the following methods; snowshoeing, dynamic routing, unauthorized number cycling.||$1,000 pass-through fee|
|Content Violation||Sending messages containing content in violation of the T-Mobile Code of Conduct such as SHAFT related content.||$1,000 per content violation|
That being said, using mass text message marketing effectively is still very much possible for any cannabis dispensary, and from the perspective of sustainable business growth complying with 10DLC is the right call. Navigating 10DLC guidelines it is important for cannabis dispensaries to be aware of 10DLC and how adapting it will impact their marketing strategies to make sure your text messaging campaigns are as effective as ever. As it seems 10DLC is here to stay, here are a few tips on how to navigate the new rules while staying compliant Including links that direct customers to your website can be a great way to provide customers with more information about for example upcoming events or products. However, make sure that the links landing page is also compliant with the guidelines, instead of sending links directly to cannabis websites. By ensuring your SMS marketing platform complies with the 10DLC regulations to avoid any unwanted fees. Using evasion techniques such as dynamic routing (grey routing) to go around 10DLC regulations can come with severe sanctions. In a heavily regulated field like the cannabis industry compliance is key, so avoid using platforms that try to evade regulations. Taking risks by not complying can hurt your business in the long run. While utilizing 10DLC might require some changes in your text message marketing, it remains an incredibly effective and convenient addition to your cannabis dispensary marketing strategy. Keeping up to date with regulations and improving your content will ensure you can reach your customers by text as effectively as ever before!