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Cannabis Connected: Apple Lifts Ban on Marijuana Networking App

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Cannabis Connected: Apple Lifts Ban on Marijuana Networking App

Apple has lifted the ban on MassRoots, a social-networking app for marijuana users. Similar to Instagram, MassRoots allows users to “connect with the cannabis community” by finding other users in their area, follow them and upload pictures, send messages and view videos.

The tech company first banned the app on the grounds of conflict with their guidelines, specifically banning apps that may “encourage excessive consumption of alcohol or illegal substances.” However it appears MassRoots took a two-part approach to having the ban lifted in the three months since Apple removed the application from the marketplace. Perhaps the most important aspect of the restructure included the agreement that MassRoots would add a geo-restriction feature that only makes the app available in the 23 states that have legalized medical marijuana.

MassRoots appears to be taking all of Apple’s guideline enforcement seriously. In a blog post regarding the relaunch MassRoots said:

“We have a duty to show the world that cannabis consumption can be done in a safe and responsible manner in compliance with state laws and federal enforcement guidelines. We do not take this task lightly. Over the coming weeks, we will be implementing new features to strengthen our compliance even beyond what is currently required.”

There is no word yet on what the new features to strengthen compliance may be. In addition to the geo-restriction, the Colorado-based app startup created a multimedia public campaign, requesting Apple change its policies on certain marijuana-themed programs.

According to the company, tens of thousands of users signed a petition to lift the ban and the app’s creators also sent Apple CEO Tim Cook a letter co-signed by the National Cannabis Industry Association, ArcView Group, a marijuana-focused investment firm, and several other cannabis-centric companies.

The ban was initially part of a larger restriction on marijuana apps, which removed several applications from the Apple Marketplace last year. Much of the focus was on “social-dynamic” programs which could encourage “over consumption.”

Other marijuana applications have remained in the Apple Store without issue such as cannabis growing games which allow players to grow and sell their marijuana on a simulated market, dispensary directories like Weedmaps and Leafly which help users locate dispensaries and specific strains of marijuana in their area, strain dictionaries and media-related apps.

With Apple holding a 40 percent share of the mobile phone market, this ban lift is vital for an emerging startup like MassRoots. According to an interview with Isaac Dietrich and Fortune, the app currently boasts 250,000 users, vast outweighing similar apps with users ranging in the thousands.

Apple also enforced regulations on games including gun violence. While these apps are still allowed in the app store, Apple has directed game developers to remove any gun images in the screenshots. The enforcement comes from Apple’s policy prohibiting “depicting violence against a human being.”

While one may ask why any of this is important; with so much sway over the public mobile marketplace, Apple holds the keys to locking or unlocking potential public opinion. As more apps on marijuana fill the iTunes store, we see in the real world, the same representation of change in public opinion and the evolving view on drug policy.

What other type of cannabis apps would you like to see? Tell us in the comments.

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