Twitter announced this week that it has further updated its marijuana advertising policy, aiming to give cannabis businesses that are “certified advertisers” the ability to feature “packaged” cannabis products in the ad creative that’s promoted on the social media site.
The company generated headlines when it previously revised its marijuana policy in February, opening up advertising opportunities for cannabis companies to promote their brands and campaigns, while allowing them to link back to their websites in select legal states.
The grass is getting greener 🍃 Certified advertisers can now show packaged cannabis products in their Twitter ad creative.
— Twitter Business (@TwitterBusiness) April 25, 2023
Now Twitter says that marijuana brand ads can “feature packaged cannabis products in ad creative”—though it’s not immediately clear if that means photos of actual flower or joints out of their packaging are allowed as well.
The company also says that is has “made some changes for medical licensees and opened up additional recreational markets (some restrictions apply),” but its short blog post announcing the new move did not provide further details.
The expansion seems partly responsive to criticism the social media giant has faced over the rollout of its initial update.
Alexa Alianiello, who works on Twitter’s U.S. sales and partnerships team and leads the company’s cannabis ads effort, said in the blog post on Tuesday that the company has “seen many cannabis and ancillary companies run ad campaigns, bringing together the power of our platform and the value of our audience with the innovative products emerging in the cannabis space.”
The cannabis community asked. We listened, and updated our ads policy:
– Packaged product in ads ✅
– Medical legal markets ✅
– Additional recreational legal markets ✅
We keep it rolling 🔥https://t.co/cNnZNU3h8i
— Alexa Alianiello (@lexa) April 25, 2023
“We have gathered meaningful feedback from the cannabis industry which we have taken into consideration to create even more opportunity,” she said, adding that the latest update makes it so “certified advertisers may feature packaged cannabis products in ad creative.”
“They may also continue responsibly linking to their owned and operated web pages and e-commerce experiences for CBD, THC, and cannabis-related products and services,” the post says.
While many marijuana industry stakeholders and advocates applauded Twitter for opening up advertising opportunities for cannabis—a first for a mainstream social media company under ongoing federal prohibition—there’s been some frustration over the implementation of the policy change.
Adam Terry, CEO of the cannabis beverage company Cantrip, said earlier this month that Twitter’s ad tracking system initially didn’t even calculate conversions to sales; and while it eventually started tracking the number of conversions, it still does not show the value of those sales.
1. Conversion tracking has never worked. At first we didn't get any information back despite installing our pixel correctly. After maybe a month Twitter did SOMETHING which appears to be capturing number of conversions, but not their value. Can't calculate CAC without this.
— Adam Terry (@cantripguy) April 17, 2023
He also said that there have been long wait times to get support from Twitter teams, which did not seem to be effectively communicating internally to respond to concerns and feedback. Also, setting geographic parameters for targeted advertising proved challenging.
4. The teams aren't connected. I have two points of contact, and they're separate from policy and engineering, so it's always "we'll ask someone else and get back to you." Response times are slow
— Adam Terry (@cantripguy) April 17, 2023
“Now I know we have gotten brand exposure and sales we wouldn’t have had without Twitter,” he said. “Speculatively we’re about breakeven on spend (which I cannot confirmed because the conversion tracking is broken) but given all of this I am pretty much ready to call it a day on Twitter ads.”
Now I know we have gotten brand exposure and sales we wouldn't have had without Twitter. Speculatively we're about breakeven on spend (which I cannot confirmed because the conversion tracking is broken) but given all of this I am pretty much ready to call it a day on Twitter ads.
— Adam Terry (@cantripguy) April 17, 2023
Kaliko Castille, CEO of ThndrStrm Strategies and author of CannabisCMO, a cannabis marketing newsletter, said that he’s similarly heard “various versions” of the issues that Terry outlined. He added that the ad policy update “seems aimed at the biggest players rather than smaller operators who need the most help.”
I've seen/heard various versions of this thread about Twitter's roll out to the #cannabis industry.
Based on the featured partners during the rollout plus the communications strategy, it seems aimed at the biggest players rather than smaller operators who need the most help. https://t.co/mabQYKeUnZ
— Kaliko Castille (@WizKaliko) April 18, 2023
There have been complaints that advertising marijuana brands on Twitter has been cost-prohibitive, as well.
Twitter won’t approve weed companies for ads w/o the company committing to spend $5k per quarter on ads pic.twitter.com/s6fPvERKlU
— Chris Becker 🐝 (@chris_honeybee) April 24, 2023
Alianiello of Twitter replied to each of those posts, welcoming feedback, highlighting partnerships with key cannabis brands and saying that the high cost thresholds for marijuana advertising are “temporary” and necessary given strong initial demand from the industry.
As mentioned previously our policy is constantly revisited and part of my job is to translate market feedback to our internal teams for further review. Today, you’ll find the most inclusive cannabis ads policy on social and we’ve opened the door to cannabis advertisers in a way… https://t.co/9X79nTsilo
— Alexa Alianiello (@lexa) April 18, 2023
“As mentioned previously our policy is constantly revisited and part of my job is to translate market feedback to our internal teams for further review,” she said earlier this month. “Today, you’ll find the most inclusive cannabis ads policy on social and we’ve opened the door to cannabis advertisers in a way that no other social platform has before.”
Google also updated its cannabis advertising policy as of January, making it so companies can promote Food and Drug Administration- (FDA) approved drugs containing CBD, as well as topical CBD products with no more than 0.3 percent THC.
However, Google restricts those ad opportunities to California, Colorado and Puerto Rico. While Twitter’s previously policy also prohibited advertising the limited CBD products in seven specific states, that restriction now appears to have been removed.
Not long after Elon Musk took over Twitter last year, the company separately ended a federal partnership that had presented users who searched the site for certain drug-related keywords, including “marijuana,” with a suggestion they consider entering drug treatment. No such suggestion had appeared for “alcohol” searches.
The new Twitter CEO is no stranger to criticism over how the company has operated under his leadership. After rounds of staff firings and various system updates at the social media corporation, Twitter users have routinely complained about issues with the interface. And Twitter has further invited controversy over Musk’s decision to remove the “verified” status of most “legacy” users, including journalists, instead opting to offer individuals and businesses a paid model for Twitter Blue verifications.
Musk has repeatedly inserted himself in the marijuana debate on several occasions, including on Twitter.
He got into hot water for puffing a blunt during a podcast interview with Joe Rogan in 2018 (he later claimed he never inhaled it), prompting a federal investigation over his company SpaceX’s “workplace safety” and “adherence to a drug-free environment.
The next year, when shares of his other company, Telsa, hit $420, he responded on Twitter with crying laughing emojis and said “Whoa…the stock is so high lol.”
He also raised the attention of the federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2018 after he said he was considering taking Tesla private at a share price of $420—an announcement that SEC described as “false and misleading” and that was made without required notification to regulators. That tweet was the subject of a recent lawsuit in which Musk was found not liable.