When Elon Musk bought Twitter in 2022, speculation about looming company-wide changes made worldwide headlines. Every controversial decision Musk made, from “ending” political censorship to charging for verification checkmarks, gave journalists and media outlets salacious opportunities to evaluate his choices. The announcement from the social media platform that it will change its cannabis advertising policies has the industry applauding the bold decision.
The new policy will lift advertising bans on cannabis advertising and related content, allowing for greater promotion of previously restricted ads. According to the policy update announced on February 15, Twitter will immediately allow advertising and promotional content related to legal cannabis products and services. The new rules will make concessions for content that promotes education and research about the plant and allow advertisers to promote brands, products and services.
Specifically, according to the Cannabis Ads Policy, CBD and similar cannabinoid products, THC and related products and cannabis-infused products and services—including delivery services, labs, growing technology, search engines and more—are now allowed to advertise on the platform. Additionally, to incentivize businesses to advertise, Twitter is offering to match every cannabis or CBD advertising dollar spent up to $250,000 until March 30, 2023.
Under the social media platform’s policy change, on February 15 behemoth multi-state operator Trulieve made history as the first company to launch an advertising campaign on Twitter.
“The plant really provides an opportunity for the world outside of traditional medicine that can bring great changes and benefits to all and Twitter is an important platform to educate within,” Gina Collins, chief marketing officer at Trulieve, said. “But there’s also a business reality that nobody talks about—especially in the macro-economic conditions we’re all facing—there’s ad revenue to be had. It has mutual benefits for more than just two key players or one small industry. It seems much bigger than that.”
Collins says she hopes the groundbreaking update from Twitter will encourage cannabis advertising policy reform across other social media platforms, believing the news to be a “catalyst.”
“If there’s bravery on a platform such as Twitter to come out and say this is an untapped industry and allow a credible business to come forth, then the rest will have to reconsider their policies too,” Collins says. “Twitter has been evolving its policies and products since they had a leadership change. Elon Musk is a huge advocate of the plant itself, and I suspect there were pretty active conversations around the decision.”
Potential advertisers will have to contend with an arduous approval process to ensure they follow the updated guidelines and are educated on the platform. Once cannabis executives pass that hurdle, they’ll have new tools with Twitter’s advertising products, such as in-stream videos, promoted tweets and product opportunities, to name a few. While that’s a win for cannabis marketers, the promotion of illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia and content that promotes drug use are still prohibited.
Joe Hodas, chief marketing officer for cannabis MSO Wana Brands, says that the new Twitter policy will change the company’s financial commitment to its 2023 marketing plan.
“Strategically, I still need to reach the consumer and drive them into a dispensary to purchase the product,” Hodas says. “And this has offered me another chance to do it. This potentially gives me another more targeted approach to reaching the consumer I can’t get through programmatic ads.”
Search engine giant Google quietly announced it was making some adjustments to its restrictive advertising policies around CBD and hemp products beginning in January 2023. However, it didn’t go nearly as far as Twitter and by all accounts, the updated policies are an excessively costly, burdensome process of paying a certification provider thousands of dollars in application, monitoring and website fees before paying for the advertising costs itself.
While Google did remove CBD from its list of unapproved pharmaceuticals and supplements list, its policies are still highly restrictive, only allowing hemp-derived topical CBD products with less than 0.3% or less THC ad content.
Hodas agrees that, as it so often is the case, education is key to progress and that we’re still contending with a lack of understanding.
“This question of hemp and CBD, it’s an issue for the cannabis industry in the sense that I think there’s a lack of education,” Hodas says. “In the early days, some platforms said CBD was permitted, but not allow THC. Well, now that’s all getting blurred as well. I think this further reinforces that we need better education.”