Online Platforms Heavily Restrict Cannabis Advertising
Cannabis has been legalized for adult use at the state level by voters in 8 different states and the District of Columbia—but professionals in the cannabis industry are facing another obstacle: how to market their products effectively to consumers.
A recent Washington Post article summarized the issue, “Online platforms with prime advertising space like Facebook and Google do not allow [cannabis], or [cannabis]-related promotions on their sites, leaving a large share of [cannabis] advertising to blogs and podcasts, newsletters and print media. And while experts say Facebook and Google — which control the lion’s share of digital advertising in the country — are unlikely to change their policies until [cannabis] is legalized at the federal level.” The article continues, “’You would think that Facebook and some of these online platforms are the ideal platforms for these products because you can target only legal states, target only people over 21,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “We would gladly follow those guidelines,’” [Rachel Siegel, 4/5/2018, The Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/business/wp/2018/04/05/even-where-its-legal-to-sell-marijuana-its-hard-to-advertise-it/?utm_term=.b44b047ea246]
Facebook & Google’s Cannabis Policies
Facebook’s advertising guidelines include warning advertisers to “avoid using images of either recreational or medical [cannabis]” and prohibits ads from promoting “the sale or use of…prescription, or recreational [cannabis],” [Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/policies/ads/prohibited_content/drugs]. Cannabis advertisers in Google encounter the same restrictions explicitly prohibiting any advertising that promotes cannabis [Google, https://support.google.com/adwordspolicy/answer/6014299?hl=en]. There is no indication from either platform that these policies will change soon.
Is Change in Cannabis Advertising Policies Coming?
As stated in the Washington Post article, nothing is expected to change unless cannabis is legal at the federal level, but there may be good news on the horizon. Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader, recently announced plans to decriminalize cannabis at the federal level, [Jacob Pramuk, 4/20/2018, CNBC, https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/20/chuck-schumer-announces-plan-to-decriminalize-marijuana.html]. While the outcome of the program is unknown; decriminalization of cannabis could result in loosened advertising restrictions on some of the largest advertising platforms – affording cannabis professionals more options to advertise to adults who consume cannabis.