Almost all marijuana businesses have run into restrictions when advertising cannabis on Facebook. This has been a major hurdle for brands, retailers, and cultivators operating in legal states. Tuesday, Facebook executives and staff from around the world completed their internal and external review of their cannabis advertising policy. Unfortunately, they’ve decided to maintain their policy of barring business attempting to sell cannabis using their platform.
It seems that this decision was not made overnight as over 60 high ranking Facebook personnelle debated the pros and cons of allowing legal businesses to advertise cannabis sale or boasting about it’s brand. Ultimately they determined not to allow advertising cannabis sales since cannabis laws globally vary widely and are ever evolving. Due to all of the regulatory nuances from state to state and country to country, it would be “operationally difficult” to implement such a policy that had to delineate legitimate businesses from illegal operations.
Facebook’s current policy bans any mentions or imagery of cannabis that aims to sell, trade or barter marijuana flower, extract or edibles. Even though these products are legal for recreational use in Canada and ten American states, it remains illegal in the eyes of the U.S. federal government. Despite cannabis being recreationally legal in Canada, every province still have differences when it comes to age restrictions not to mention the marketing restrictions Health Canada already imposes on advertising cannabis.
The solitary silver lining may be that Facebook will review banned language and improve content moderation pertaining to cannabis businesses and news. Facebook released a statement saying they are “going to spend more time training content moderators about its cannabis-related policies and talking with pot businesses about what’s allowed.”
Facebook evaluated three possible changes to its cannabis sales policy: One would have allowed Facebook users to sell pot directly to one another or buy from recreational and medical marijuana dispensaries in legal jurisdictions. A second option for users to only buy from brick-and-mortar retailers where marijuana sales are legal, and a third scenario that limited sales to medical marijuana dispensaries and patients.
It seems that moderators may be more lenient when reviewing advertisements they consider community content, however any ads attempting to generate sales will likely not get approved. Many cannabis industry insiders are very disappointed with this decision. Chief executive of edibles-maker Plus Products Inc, Jake Heimark remarked that, "Facebook is one of the best ways in the world to only target the audience we want to speak to.”
Rebecca Brown, founder Crowns Agency for cannabis consulting, noted that “Everyone needs to build a brand, and not just micro brands, but household, name brands. Facebook has reached and scale that competes with traditional broadcast. The bitter pill of this decision was that Facebook could have become an opportunity that could have solved very significant impediments to [cannabis companies] becoming a Coke, a Starbucks, a Walmart.”