Facebook Affirms Decision To Block Marijuana Advertising

Facebook in its weekly policy meeting have affirmed previous decision to block contents that attempts to sell and advertise marijuana.No more pot ads on Facebook? Photo: Jurassic Blueberries | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

As Facebook gains a footing in the advertising industry along with Google, the California-based tech corp has finally decided that they will be implementing a universal ban on advertisements that attempt to sell marijuana.

Following an arduous rally of pros and cons and board room deliberations on the matter, the company has finally come up with continuing to block marijuana-related content and advertising on its platform, a decision made Tuesday says.

Roughly 60 policy makers and executive of the company convened at Ireland, Washington D.C., Kenya, Los Angeles and Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park at the company’s weekly product policy meeting, arguing the merits of the policy and the counter policy on whether they should allow direct cannabis sales throughout its platform. At the end of the meeting, the body has agreed that they will keep their anti-cannabis policy in place but also noted that the company would be implementing several changes on the social networking site’s current cannabis content rules.

Selling marijuana is already legal in some states and Canada, and currently, Facebook bans cannabis related content, especially those that attempt to sell, trade, or barter the drug. At present, Facebook, however, allows the advertising of cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis plants. Other allowable contents are posts, pages and non-advertising content touting the sale of cannabis seeds and items such as bongs, rolling papers, vaporizers and accessories that are often found at legal smoke shops.

Facebook rolled out an updated version of their policies on community contents that govern tobacco, drugs, and other regulated products such as guns and CBD. Accessory ad regulations became tighter too.

However, Facebook’s decision to uphold its previous rules and strengthen them dismayed the cannabis industry citing that the universal ban can hamper companies’ ability to reach an audience that is available on the social media platform.

“What is the dream that has been killed?” Rebecca Brown, founder of Crowns Agency, which specializes in cannabis marketing and brand consulting, said over the phone Tuesday. “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,” Brown said.

Journalists from the MarketWatch, who was also present in the meeting said that “Facebook studied three potential changes to its cannabis sales policy, according to presentation slides. One would have allowed users to sell pot directly to one another and buy from recreational and medical pot shops in legal jurisdictions. A second option looked at only buying from brick-and-mortar shops where pot is legal, and a third narrowed sales further still to only those stores involved with medical cannabis.”

Noting the complexity of cannabis legislation from around the globe and the diversity of policies targeted at irresponsible marijuana users, the team highlights that cannabis regulation in each country varies, and it is impossible for them to roll out. “The company also said that, partially because of regulatory uncertainty, it would be “operationally difficult” to implement policies — for example, determining who is a legitimate operator and who is not, across hundreds of jurisdictions.”

As part of the plan, Facebook said it was going to spend more time training content moderators about its cannabis-related policies. “For companies that are focused on creating a brand like we are, that is only accessible to those over the age of 18; Facebook is one of the best ways in the world to only target the audience we want to speak to,” Jake Heimark, chief executive of edibles-maker Plus Products Inc. PLPRF, -1.12% said it.

“It’s a real loss for the whole industry,” he said. “That’s the worst thing about this — Facebook could be a partner. But it’s a global company, and they’re put in a difficult spot.”

“We’re dealing with a regulator that’s trying to fix that plane while they’re flying it,” Michael Elkin, vice president of partnerships and sales at High 12 Brands, said late Tuesday over the phone. “Health Canada has not come out with a specific regulation — we’re still waiting for proper direction. Nothing [would have] changed.”

About the Author

Al Restar
A consumer tech and cybersecurity journalist who does content marketing while daydreaming about having unlimited coffee for life and getting a pet llama. I also own a cybersecurity blog called Zero Day.

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