Social media has long been a challenging place for cannabis marketing and advertising. Most platforms maintain terms of service with strict limitations on the type of cannabis-related content profiles can promote, especially when it comes to paid advertising. For cannabis marketers, finding the line between what’s acceptable for a cannabis brand and what isn’t has been an ongoing challenge.
However, Twitter’s recent announcement that it now permits cannabis advertising on its platform may be the first step in changing this long-standing paradigm. Twitter’s new cannabis advertising policy and the precedent it sets when it comes to social media marketing for cannabis could have big implications for the expanding legal cannabis industry.
Can you advertise cannabis on Twitter?
Yes, selected advertisements for cannabis, hemp, and CBD companies are allowed under Twitter since a policy change adopted in February 2023. Upon adoption of the platform’s current policy, Twitter became the first major social media channel to allow cannabis advertising in the 39 states (plus Washington, D.C.) where cannabis is legal either for medicinal use, adult use, or both.
According to a statement released by Twitter, the policy shift was intended to align with an already vibrant cannabis community that is active on the platform.
“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 company noted in a press release. “The conversation also reflects where the cannabis industry is currently heading: legislative/policy reform, business development, and community impact.”
What does Twitter’s cannabis advertising policy actually say?
The changes to Twitter’s policy on cannabis advertising apply only to companies with proper licenses who have passed through Twitter’s approval process. Additionally, advertisers are still prohibited from promoting or offering the sale of cannabis or cannabidiol (CBD) products unless the ads are for topical, non-ingestible, hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC, per government regulations.
For example, a dispensary can’t make ads promoting discounts on vape cartridges and encourage users to “buy now” with a link directly to their menu. However, the dispensary could run an awareness campaign that advertises the brand and its primary locations to users without making a sales pitch.
Below are a list of do’s and don’ts that every cannabis advertiser should be aware of, based on guidelines released by Twitter.
- Be licensed by the appropriate authorities and pre-authorized by Twitter.
- Only target jurisdictions in which they are licensed to promote these products or services online.
- Comply with all applicable laws, rules, regulations, and advertising guidelines, including ensuring content only targets Twitter users over the age of 21.
- Age-gate the landing pages for your ad, and ensure all sales are age verified.
- Promote or offer the sale of cannabis (including ingestible CBD products). Exceptions apply to ads for topical (non-ingestible) hemp-derived CBD topical products containing equal to or less than the 0.3% THC government-set threshold
- Target customers under the age of 21
- Appeal to minors in the creative used in the campaign
- Use characters, sports persons, celebrities, or images/icons appealing to minors
- Use minors or pregnant women as models in advertising
- Make claims of efficacy or health benefits
- Make false or misleading claims
- Show depiction of cannabis product use
- Depict people consuming or under the influence
- Encourage transport across state lines
Adhering to these guidelines is critical to avoid account suspension or deletion. Always be sure you are compliant with the applicable laws and regulations governing your business as well as the terms of service of any social media platform you are using for marketing or advertising.
What Twitter’s policy change means for cannabis businesses
The ability to engage in paid advertising on Twitter means brands can expand beyond organic social media marketing to more quickly build their followers and reach new members of their target audience.
For example, cannabis companies can deliver paid ads to users in their geographic area who have shown some interest in cannabis based on their activity. Whereas an organic social media marketing approach may not have ever reached these users in the past, now a cannabis brand can build awareness with those who hadn’t encountered their profile before.
Twitter is also offering a one-to-one match of every advertising dollar spent by cannabis companies until the end of March. For every dollar spent on cannabis-related advertising on Twitter, the company will provide a matching credit for the same amount up to $250,000. This offers cannabis advertisers a huge potential to maximize their reach in the short term.
“We look forward to helping more customers unlock the power of Twitter Ads to connect with the cannabis conversation and drive their business forward,” Twitter noted on their site.
In practicality, the limitations of the new policy make this a more obvious opportunity for ancillary businesses, at least at first and in the short term. While there are opportunities for plant-touching companies as discussed earlier in this blog, those opportunities will take a bit of creativity to compliantly and effectively advertise — something cannabis marketers know all too well!
What about other social media networks?
With the new changes in place, Twitter is the only significant social media network to allow for such ads. For example, sites like TokTok and Meta, the parent company to Facebook and Instagram, have much more rigid restrictions on cannabis-related content. TikTok outright bans all cannabis content. Instagram states that it “doesn’t allow people or organizations to use the platform to advertise or sell marijuana, regardless of the seller’s state or country.”
A more business-oriented network, LinkedIn, bans all advertisements for illegal products, services, and activity, specifically prohibiting “ads that promote the sale of use of illicit or recreational drugs.” However, the platform is not known to actively remove cannabis content or block cannabis businesses — in fact, it is a popular gathering place for members of the cannabis industry. Although Linkedin may not be ideal for acquiring new customers, it’s great for networking building and B2B engagement.
These companies often look to the U.S. federal government to shape these decisions. Because cannabis remains a Schedule I substance and therefore federally illegal, this approach is reflected in the content policies for both organic content and paid advertisements on those platforms.
That doesn’t mean cannabis brands can’t use other social media platforms to build an organic audience. Adhering to these platforms’ terms of service can be quite tricky, and it’s true that enforcement is quite choppy across the board. However, with a creative marketing team, you can build and maintain an engaged following that you can direct to your website for more information on how to purchase products and services. Organic social media marketing has been successfully implemented by cannabis brands since the industry was first legalized, although it takes expert insight into what is permitted and what is not to avoid account suspensions and deletions.
In the long term, Twitter’s acceptance of cannabis advertising may herald a more friendly future for cannabis on social media, although there’s no indication other platforms are heading in that direction just yet. As legalization expands and discussions about reform on the federal level continue, the legal cannabis industry is clearly here to stay. With luck and in success, Twitter’s policy change could set a new precedent for other social media platforms that want to compete for the industry’s advertising dollars, unlocking new advertising opportunities for cannabis businesses that have historically been limited in how they can market and advertise.
Additionally, some brands are exploring how they can leverage the Metaverse for cannabis marketing to reach their target audience and promote their products in an immersive way, with fewer terms of service restrictions than on conventional social media platforms. For example, some companies are creating virtual dispensaries in the Metaverse that allow users to learn and read about their products. Still, with a lack of information on the future of the Metaverse, there is uncertainty and risk marketing there, as well.
Maximize your cannabis marketing results
While Twitter’s decision to allow cannabis advertisements on its platform is a positive development for the industry, online cannabis marketing still comes with many unique challenges. At CannaContent, our expert marketing team specializes in creating high-quality content to market your company in a compliant way that ensures your hard-earned following will be protected. Reach out today to find out how we can help you navigate the world of online marketing and advertising successfully, executing your brand vision and helping you reach your future customers.