Twitter’s new cannabis advertising policy has sparked much excitement on social media, causing many to believe the marketing floodgates are now wide open for the industry. Unfortunately, these “major policy changes” do not afford the wide marketing latitude cannabis stakeholders believe they do.
In a recent press release, entitled “Enabling more brands to connect with the cannabis conversation,” Twitter announced it had taken measures to relax its Cannabis Ads policy “to create more opportunities for responsible cannabis marketing — the largest step forward by any social media platform” by allowing advertisers to “promote brand preference and informational cannabis-related content for CBD, THC and cannabis-related products and services.”
Yet, upon clicking on the newly revised “Cannabis Ads policy,” we learn that:
“Advertisers may not promote or offer the sale of Cannabis (including CBD–cannabinoids),” except for “topical (non-ingestible) hemp-derived CBD topical products containing equal to or less than the 0.3 percent THC government-set threshold.”
This means that while Twitter permits the sale and marketing of hemp-derived topical products that meet the federal THC threshold I have discussed ad nauseam in this column, Twitter does NOT authorize the marketing of all other cannabis products for sale.
What Twitter’s new relaxed rules do allow (or seem to allow), however, is the promotion of cannabis brands and activities such as delivery services, labs, and growing technology — with the exception of the sale of hemp-derived topical products that contain no more than 0.3% total THC on a dry weight basis.
But the restrictions do not stop there. Twitter’s eased restrictions around cannabis marketing only apply to advertisers that:
- Are licensed in jurisdictions where their business activities are allowed and regulated;
- Are pre-authorized to promote their hemp-derived topicals or services online (who knows how onerous this process will be);
- Comply with all applicable marketing laws and regulations; and
- Do not target customers under the age of 21.
In addition, qualifying cannabis advertisers must ensure that their marketing materials do not:
- Appeal to minors in any way, including using characters, sports persons, celebrities, or images appealing to minors, and landing pages are age-gated and sales age-verified;
- Make any health claims and/or false or misleading claims;
- Show depiction of cannabis product use;
- Depict people using cannabis or under the influence;
- Encourage transport across state lines.
So all and all, Twitter’s policy closely mirrors rules of other social media platforms, including Google, which have recently relaxed their marketing policies to permit the sale and marketing of certain hemp-derived topical products that meet specific state and company-imposed regulations.
However, what differentiates Twitter and makes it a pioneer in the world of cannabis marketing is its decision to allow state-legal THC companies to advertise on a major social platform and provide these companies the ability to more freely reach online consumers.
Although many see this policy shift as financially motivated (Twitter needs to increase its revenues which have sharply declined due to Elon Musk’s unpredictable behavior and approach to speech), there is no doubt it will also help the cannabis industry normalize and destigmatize cannabis as well as force other social media platforms to reassess their current policies and eventually follow suit.
So even if its cannabis marketing rules do not yet afford stakeholders the level of freedom many mistakenly believe they do, Twitter is sending a strong signal to the industry: the company sees and acknowledges its value and wants to help it thrive. This, in turn, should result in the industry returning the favor by showing its allegiance to Twitter when choosing where to spend its advertising dollars.
Nathalie Bougenies focuses her practice on health and wellness, in addition to corporate transactions and regulatory compliance. For the past four years, Nathalie has helped clients navigate the complex regulatory landscape of hemp products intended for human consumption and advises domestic and international clients on the sale, distribution, marketing, labeling, and importation of these products. Nathalie frequently speaks on these issues and has made national media appearances, including on NPR’s “Marketplace.” She also authors a weekly column for “Above the Law” that features content on cannabis policy and regulation. For four consecutive years, Nathalie has been named Rising Star by Super Lawyers.