Twitter has revised its rules for marijuana advertising—saying it will now allow industry participants to “promote brand preference and informational cannabis-related content for CBD, THC and cannabis-related products and services”—but there are still open questions about the practical implications of the new policy.
The social media company recently started reaching out to marijuana accounts to inform them of the forthcoming policy change, which was uploaded this week and says that Twitter now permits “approved Cannabis (including CBD– cannabinoids) advertisers to target the United States.”
That line on its own seems to have left many stakeholders with the impression that marijuana companies now have wide latitude for marketing on the site. But the policy is still seriously restrictive, prohibiting cannabis businesses from advertising their actual products for sale, for example.
“Advertisers may not promote or offer the sale of Cannabis (including CBD– cannabinoids),” it says. The exception is ads for “topical (non-ingestible) hemp-derived CBD topical products containing equal to or less than the 0.3 percent THC government-set threshold.”
Twitter, which confirmed to Marijuana Moment on Wednesday that the rules now shown live on its website represent the change that was touted to cannabis industry stakeholders, had the same limited CBD carveout in effect previously—specifying that advertisers could only “promote non-ingestible, legally derived CBD topical products.”
While there’s certainly a market for those products, it represents a small sliver of what’s available in the state-legal marijuana industry.
“As the cannabis industry has expanded, so too has the conversation on Twitter,” Twitter’s Alexa Alianiello said in a blog post on Wednesday formally announcing the policy change. “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.”
“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. The conversation also reflects where the cannabis industry is currently heading: legislative/policy reform, business development, and community impact.”
The company representative said that the reason Twitter decided to “relax” cannabis advertising policy was “to create more opportunities for responsible cannabis marketing—the largest step forward by any social media platform.”
Under the new policy, cannabis businesses are barred from promoting ads that depict cannabis use or people under the influence, make “claims of efficacy or health benefits” or use “characters, sports-persons, celebrities, or images/icons appealing to minors.”
That latter rule seems to be problematically subjective, as there are a number of celebrities and athletes who’ve become part of the marijuana industry and who might appeal to adults and minors alike.
That said, there does seem to be somewhat more leeway than before for cannabis companies. While they can’t advertise their products for sale, it appears that they might be able to promote their brands and non-commercial activity.
Also, some ancillary companies like PAX have started advertising their vaporizer devices in light of the policy change.
“We’re excited to be among the first of Twitter’s cannabis advertising partners and be able to engage customers more directly,” PAX Vice President of Marketing Luke Droulez said in a press release on Wednesday. “After decades of prohibitionist propaganda, there is an opportunity to destigmatize and normalize the plant and its use.”
Still, the news of Twitter’s revised rules—which were first highlighted by ADCANN on Tuesday—seems to have left many stakeholders with the impression that the floodgates are opening, as if the policy for cannabis is now as flexible as it is for alcohol, for example.
Twitter does set limitations on alcohol advertising content, but products can still be promoted if they don’t violate various restrictions on appealing to minors, implying that alcohol consumption in excess is good and more.
Where the new rules do seem to expand advertising opportunities for the cannabis sector, they seem limited to generic brand promotion that doesn’t involve a company’s actual products, unless they’re topical CBD items.
The new cannabis policy only applies to the U.S., and companies can only “target jurisdictions in which they are licensed to promote these products or services online.” The rules for Canada, where marijuana is federally legal, remain the same as under a prior iteration of the policy that allows cannabis ads within certain guidelines.
“It’s been a long time coming for social platforms to allow state legal cannabis brands to advertise on the same platforms that have built massively successful brands in other industries,” Kaliko Castille, CEO of ThndrStrm Strategies and author of CannabisCMO, a cannabis marketing newsletter, told Marijuana Moment.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Google also updated its cannabis advertising policy as of last month, making it so companies can promote Food and Drug Administration- (FDA) approved drugs containing CBD, as well as topical CBD products with no more than 0.3 percent THC.
However, Google restricts those ad opportunities to California, Colorado and Puerto Rico. While Twitter’s previous policy also prohibited advertising the limited CBD products in seven specific states, that restriction now appears to have been removed.
Not long after Tesla CEO Elon Musk took over Twitter last year, the company separately ended a federal partnership that had presented users who searched the site for certain drug-related keywords, including “marijuana,” with a suggestion they consider entering drug treatment. No such suggestion had appeared for “alcohol” searches.
Musk has repeatedly inserted himself in the marijuana debate on several occasions, including on Twitter.
He got into hot water for puffing a blunt during a podcast interview with Joe Rogan in 2018 (he later claimed he never inhaled it), prompting a federal investigation over his company SpaceX’s “workplace safety” and “adherence to a drug-free environment.
The next year, when shares of his other company, Telsa, hit $420, he responded on Twitter with crying laughing emojis and said “Whoa…the stock is so high lol.”
He also raised the attention of the federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2018 after he said he was considering taking Tesla private at a share price of $420—an announcement that SEC described as “false and misleading” and that was made without required notification to regulators. That tweet was the subject of a recent lawsuit in which Musk was found not liable.
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