Twitter just made history by becoming the first major social media service to let cannabis companies promote their products on its built-in ad network.
Earlier this week, the social media giant announced that it was “turning over a new leaf” with its cannabis advertising policies. “As the cannabis industry has expanded, so too has the conversation on Twitter,” the company wrote in a blog post. “In the US – one of the most influential markets for cannabis – it is larger than the conversation around topics such as pets, cooking, and golf, as well as food and beverage categories including fast food, coffee, and liquor.”
“As of today, in certain US states we have taken measures to relax our Cannabis Ads policy to create more opportunities for responsible cannabis marketing – the largest step forward by any social media platform,” the company explained. “Going forward, Twitter is allowing advertisers to promote brand preference and informational cannabis-related content for CBD, THC, and cannabis-related products and services.”
But although Twitter has relaxed its cannabis ad restrictions, it hasn't completely removed them. Most importantly, weed companies will still be blocked from advertising the actual products that they are selling. The updated ad guidelines state that “advertisers may not promote or offer the sale of Cannabis (including CBD– cannabinoids),” with the exception of “topical (non-ingestible) hemp-derived CBD topical products” that are capped at 0.3% THC content.
There are also some common-sense restrictions clearly meant to comply with state-level cannabis regulations. Companies wishing to place ads on the service will need to prove that they are licensed to operate in a state where weed is legal. Ads can only be targeted to weed-legal states, and must be restricted to only target adults over the age of 21. Businesses will also be blocked from using “characters, sports-persons, celebrities, or images/icons appealing to minors” in their ads.
In its days as a publicly-traded company, Twitter used to categorically ban any ad that related to cannabis in any way, with the exception of federally-legal CBD topicals. Every other major social media company still enforces similar bans – Facebook and Instagram regularly deny cannabis ads and delete or “shadow ban” accounts that even tangentially discuss weed. TikTok even banned a series of PSAs that New York state released to educate the public about cannabis safety.
Twitter's change of heart is undoubtedly due to its new owner, Elon Musk, who has a lot of personal experience with weed-related tweets. In 2018, the federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigated the tech billionaire for tweeting about listing Tesla on the stock market at $420 a share. Musk was eventually sued over these tweets, but found to be not guilty. Musk has continued to take criticism over sly weed references, but this time, the general public is celebrating his company's decision to say yes to cannabis.
“Twitter beginning to open up their ads policy is finally a step in the right direction — although it seems there is more work to do for cannabis brands to have full access to consumers on the ad platform,” said Kaliko Castille, CEO of ThndrStrm Strategies and author of marketing newsletter CannabisCMO, to Marijuana Moment. “I hope the legal departments of other platforms start to follow suit and that one day cannabis brands will have the same marketing opportunities as any other business.”
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