Although prohibited under Federal Law, marijuana has become legalized in some form in 31 states and the District of Columbia. Just ahead of Canada declaring their legalization of marijuana, Facebook announced their first steps in acknowledging the shifting status and normalization of cannabis.
According to MarketWatch, less than one week before Canada’s announcement of legalization, Facebook announced that cannabis-related business pages are now eligible to receive a grey verification badge. Similar to the blue checkmark that identifies verified media pages, famous people, and brands, the grey checkmark identifies verified businesses and organizations. To receive the grey badge, cannabis businesses need to complete a fairly simple phone verification process.
On top of this, Facebook also altered its cannabis related search results. Prior to last week, when someone typed ‘cannabis’ or ‘marijuana’ into the search bar, limited or no results would appear. MarketWatch stated “Marijuana-related search results for categories such as posts, pages and events were filtered by Facebook the past year because people had been using the platform to sell pot in violation of its policies, according to a spokeswoman.” Now when searching those terms, both blue and grey verified pages appear in the search results.
This is a huge step for the cannabis industry which has been tirelessly hitting hurdles as it relates to Facebook policies. Beyond needing to be extra careful about organic content on their page for fear of the page being deleted and losing followers, anyone trying to run an advertisement that even uses the word cannabis is likely to be denied by Facebook’s ad team. Facebook’s current policy states, “Adverts must not promote the sale or use of illegal, prescription or recreational drugs.” But there appears to be a great deal of subjective interpretation behind that.
Back in July, a Montreal group received press coverage because Facebook kept denying an advertisement encouraging people to attend a cannabis-related panel discussion. Despite Facebook making a public statement that the advertisement did not violate their ad policy, the group was unable to get the advertisement up and running.
As more countries and states continue to recognize the legalization of marijuana, Facebook will likely need to revisit their ad policy as it relates to cannabis, and possibly adopt a policy similar to their current alcohol ad policy. The alcohol policy clearly acknowledges the varying alcohol laws, and states that Facebook advertisements must adhere to local laws and age restrictions.
The alcohol policy makes perfect sense, but isn’t alcohol technically a recreational drug and should fall under the same drug policy listed above? But, I digress…
Despite these initial steps taken by Facebook, it may be some time before there is positive synergy between Facebook and cannabis companies. In the meantime, there are some great articles out there on how to work with Facebook’s current rules. For instance, Cannabis.net recommends working with influencers and creating backup pages.