Cannabis dispensaries want to be able to advertise their products using the same online channels as every other business and website. However, they're finding few opportunities to do so as Google, Twitter, and Facebook aren't budging.
Google, Facebook, and Twitter have all gone on record saying that they will not allow sponsored ads, posts or tweets that promote the purchase or use of marijuana. Yet, cannabis dispensaries like the newly-opened ones in Colorado feel they are entitled to these online marketing resources because their products are legal, which thereby equates them with other local businesses.
There's one big problem though. While states like Colorado and Washington may have legalized recreational marijuana use, weed is still illegal on the federal level. This may explain why go-to advertising outlets like Google, Facebook and Twitter are refusing to allows sponsored content promoting recreational marijuana use.
Google's policy on illegal drugs and psychoactive substances states that the search engine does not allow:
...the promotion of illegal drugs, legal or synthetic highs, herbal drugs, chemicals and compounds with psychoactive effects, drug paraphernalia, or aids to pass drug tests.
Likewise, Facebook's guidelines clearly state:
Ads may not promote or facilitate the sale or consumption of illegal or recreational drugs, tobacco products, or drug or tobacco paraphernalia.
Twitter, too, has a pretty clear cut policy when it comes to promoting drugs through sponsored Tweets, trends or entire Twitter accounts:
Twitter prohibits the promotion of drugs and drug paraphernalia globally.
According to GigaOm, advocates of recreational cannabis use have suggested that online ads be allowed to promote weed and weed paraphernalia, if only in the areas where recreational marijuana use is legal. However, Facebook, Twitter and Google have all rejected geo-targeted pot ads, although they did say that they will continue to review their advertising policies.
The issue of advertising marijuana products online is a complex one, to say the least. The matter is further complicated by Google's $240,000 grant to the cannabis group Michigan Compassion in June of 2013 and by language loopholes referenced by Adweek that don't trigger red flags on Google and Facebook.
Despite their willingness to review their advertising policies, it's highly unlikely that Facebook, Google, or Twitter will be allowing ads for weed anytime soon.