Cannabis in America
Did Instagram Change its Marijuana Marketing Policy?
For marijuana businesses, it can be extremely challenging to utilize social media to its fullest marketing potential. Historically, social media companies have erred on the side of caution when establishing their community guidelines, siding with the feds’ prohibition of marijuana. However, a recent statement from Instagram could indicate a change in that company’s stance on marijuana advertising.
The critical language was noticed by Ganjapreneur after a recent Leafly report on the ongoing Instagram impersonation of Kiva Confections, a popular California-based edibles company.
As Leafly reported, a fake account using Kiva’s name suddenly began abusing people in comments and direct messages. Kiva contacted Instagram and successfully had the internet trolls’ account shut down. However, it was through this exchange that Instagram revealed some potentially critical changes to its existing policy on cannabis as it relates to advertising.
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.
As Ganjapreneur points out, the emphasized portion above leaves out any mention of “websites.” Therefore, “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.” In other words, as long as companies don’t advertise or promote the sale of cannabis, they should be in the clear.
Instagram’s omission signals a progressive push for the social media platform, which was bought by Facebook in 2012. Facebook’s community standards specifically prohibit content that promotes marijuana sales–even in states where it’s legal–but Instagram has a history of not enforcing its vague policies uniformly.
“What’s so interesting is that you’ll see posts from other companies or users and it’s naked women and paraphernalia and guns and cash,” Kristi Knoblich, co-founder of Kiva, said. “But all the posts we had on our real page were about education. Things like how to keep edibles away from kids, how to store and lock your edibles, pointers and tips for how to use safely. The nature of what we were posting didn’t have anything to do with promoting sales, illegal use, shipping or distribution.”
Hopefully, Instagram’s updated guidelines will ensure more breathing room for legal companies looking to grow their businesses with innocuous marijuana posts.