Regardless of which of the soon-to-be 21 states that have legalized adult-use cannabis that you may work in, one problematic roadblock that is prevalent throughout almost all cannabis business operations is the lack of adequate and reliable advertising options. Whereas more federally legal industries have little to no opposition or pushback in advertising on digital platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, any business that’s even tangentially-related to the cannabis industry faces significant penalties and disadvantages with properly advertising on those exact platforms.
Marketing posts showcasing cannabis products or services that cater to the cannabis industry are deleted or “shadow banned” by the administrators of the platforms themselves, popular hashtags such as “#cannabis” and anything displaying the number 420 are unlisted on Instagram and in the most severe cases, entire accounts are thoroughly deleted from the platform. Even if the cannabis brand or company is operating totally legal based upon the laws of their respective state and is fully licensed, state compliance means little to social media giants as large and federally regulated as the platforms owned by Meta.
However, cannabis companies may soon have another reliable avenue of advertising and marketing. As anyone who’s followed the news over the past 18 months is aware, the most chaotically divided forum on the internet, more commonly known as Twitter, has been purchased for a mind-boggling $44 billion by real-life space explorer and Tony Stark, Elon Musk. Exactly why the eccentric billionaire with an adoration for memes wanted to purchase a site so unhinged isn’t easily understandable, although he’s certainly shaking up the platform in far different ways than the previous owners.
Besides the firing of many C-level executives and several other Twitter employees and carrying in a literal sink into Twitter HQ to “let that sink in”, the man who spent $44 billion to do a dad joke and the new Twitter execs have implemented a new policy regarding advertising that may be incredibly advantageous towards the cannabis industry and their consistent and widespread problems with proper advertising.
Last month, Twitter made advertising history as the first major social media company to allow recreational cannabis companies that operate fully legal and compliant within their state may soon begin to place advertisements on the platform. In sharp contrast to the platforms owned by Meta and even YouTube and TikTok which still have sharply prohibitionist policies still in place, Twitter will now open a new avenue of advertising to an industry that’s flourishing yet still has trouble finding reliable advertising options due to its federal status.
“The cannabis space on Twitter is fun and engaging with users Tweeting about their experiences using cannabis – whether medicinally, for wellness, or recreation – as well as recommending brands, products, and retail locations,” reads the Twitter blog post announcing the newly implemented guidelines for cannabis advertising. “The conversation also reflects where the cannabis industry is currently heading: legislative/policy reform, business development, and community impact.”
The rules and regulations surrounding advertising on Twitter seem pretty fair compared to their competitors and are congruent with the advertising laws and regulations of other adult-centered products such as alcohol and tobacco.
First, a cannabis company must be licensed by the state and pre-authorized by Twitter to advertise. They must not advertise to anyone under 21 and all advertising content must comply with all applicable laws, regulations, rules and prior advertising guidelines that may be in place. Among these rules, cannabis advertisers may not use copyrighted characters, public figures such as athletes and celebrities and may not have any graphics or fonts that could be conceived as “appealing to minors”. Any leading websites must be age-gated to ensure sales to minors aren’t happening and any potential customers must be age-verified.
Furthermore, no health claims or any claims of medical efficacy and any featured models may not even consume the featured product in the advertisement. Any supposed claims that could be considered misleading or unethical are also prohibited and due to the federal cannabis laws, the advertisement must not encourage consumers to travel across state lines with the product and must explicitly mention what state the product is sold in.
Unlike Google’s recent announcement regarding their advertising regulations on CBD/hemp products which are extremely limited at best given their strict requirements, Twitter will be setting advertising history as the first social media giant to offer hopefully fair and reliable advertising to the hundreds of businesses and hundreds of thousands of employees of the now decade-old cannabis industry.