In the ever-complex cannabis industry, we face the ongoing challenges of trying to reach consumers in a highly regulated and restrictive world of advertising policies. To adapt, companies have turned primarily to free social media platforms to create meaningful brands and connect with customers, with the caveat of not being allowed to talk about cannabis consumption/use or sales.

Every social media channel has their own policy dictating how you can and cannot advertise on their channel and these policies are especially restrictive towards cannabis. It leaves an enormous gray area where businesses aren’t quite certain what is and isn’t allowed, so most err on the side of caution by avoiding anything that would be questionable. Facebook is the most well-known for this because it’s so widely used and, since they own Instagram, both channels take a unified approach, completely restricting cannabis-related advertising.

However, a recent statement sent out by Instagram indicates they could be coming around to the idea of a more progressive approach to cannabis advertising. Considering Instagram/Facebook have approached the issue uniformly in the past, it’s could be assumed that if Instagram is following these new guidelines, it’s supported by their parent company Facebook.

Cannabis companies have been relying on — and fearing the loss of — their social media accounts since the industry’s inception. Photo Credit: Sarah Climaco

According to a recent Leafly report, the Instagram account of the popular California-based edibles company Kiva Confections was the victim of an ongoing impersonation where a false Instagram account under their brand name was interacting with users in an abusive and disrespectful manner. Kiva has since taken steps to eliminate the false account and successfully contacted Instagram to get the account removed.

Through their efforts to get the account removed, Kiva received a full statement directly from Instagram, one that seemingly delivers an updated policy as it relates to cannabis advertising on the platform — one that is not outlined in their existing policies:

Instagram does not allow people or organizations to use the platform to advertise or sell marijuana, regardless of the seller’s state or country. This is primarily because most federal laws, including those of the United States, treat marijuana as either an illegal substance or highly regulated good. Our policy prohibits any marijuana seller, including dispensaries, from promoting their business by providing contact information like phone numbers, street addresses, or by using the “contact us” tab in Instagram Business Accounts. We do however allow marijuana advocacy content as long as it is not promoting the sale of the drug. Dispensaries can promote the use and federal legalization of marijuana provided that they do not also promote its sale or provide contact information to their store.

The emphasis above has been added and it highlights one big element they left off that short-list: your website. So, without listing your location’s contact info, you can drive customers to your website where your contact info, daily deals, and updated menus are all prominently displayed. 

What if they just forgot to list websites? That’s a valid concern, but this is one of the largest digital platforms in the world, so it would be hard to believe that they would accidentally omit the listing of websites from that very specific list.

In summary, as long as you don’t advertise or promote the sale of cannabis, you should be safe. You can promote the use and all around legalization — which means strain reviews, advocacy, product reviews, and anything else you can come up with while avoiding a sales pitch or direct contact info. At the end of the day, getting customers to your website will be your most powerful avenue. Promote “online-only” deals, implement coupons that must be printed from the website — there are all kinds of creative ways to get people on your website and Facebook/Instagram just provided a ton of clarity as to how you can do it without getting your account deleted.

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