Unfair Social Media Restrictions For Cannabis Brands

If you’re a company/brand on Instagram or Facebook, you’ve likely been tempted by these platforms at some point to promote or “boost” your post for more exposure. Admittedly, we weren't confident that we’d be able to promote ourselves on these platforms. Marketing restrictions on Cannabis are strict, allowing only ‘brand elements’ to be shown to the public unless sufficient measures have been taken to prevent them from being seen by minors. If said measures have been taken, Cannabis brands are permitted to include ‘informational promotion’ and ‘brand promotion’ as well.

Once we dug a little deeper we discovered the high level of customization that’s offered for reaching your audience. Both Facebook and Instagram allow you to direct your promoted post to specific age groups, in specific Countries/Provinces/Cities, with specific interests. Being able to target our promoted posts to Canadians who are 19+ and interested in cannabis is completely aligned with the cannabis marketing laws. So when our post was declined for promotion we were both surprised and confused. After requesting a review for appeal, we received a message saying that our post was denied because they "don't allow ads that promote illegal, prescription, or recreational drugs." However, just yesterday the following sponsored ads showed up on our Instagram feed…
 
To be clear, we’re not trying to pick on alcohol brands, and we hope each and every one of you congratulated Larry, but we can all agree that alcohol is a recreational drug. According to their policy these posts should have been denied promotion as well.

The email did have a silver lining. Facebook provided us a link to their Advertising Policy and told us to “try editing [our] ad by following the policy guidelines.” Here are those guidelines...

 

"Ads must not constitute, facilitate, or promote illegal products, services or activities. Ads targeted to minors must not promote products, services, or content that are inappropriate, illegal, or unsafe, or that exploit, mislead, or exert undue pressure on the age groups targeted."

 

The post we were trying to promote (pictured below) adhered perfectly to these guidelines yet it was still denied for promotion.



Friendly Stranger has been fighting for cannabis since 1994. We’ve always operated in accordance with the law because it’s difficult to make change from behind bars. We are asked hundreds of times every day why we don’t sell cannabis and the answer is simple, "We are not legally permitted to sell cannabis at this time." There are 23 million Canadians on Facebook and 8.5 million on Instagram, yet somehow our marketing laws are disregarded. Not being able to promote a post isn’t the end of the world, nor the end of our company, but being unable to do so because Facebook/Instagram, the largest social media platforms in the world, don't recognize what we’ve fought so hard and waited so long for, is upsetting.

Recreational cannabis is legal but there are still so many changes that need to happen and our peaceful activism will continue until we see them improved. October 17th 2018 was and will remain to be a day of celebration but let’s not forget that we still have further to go. We'll continue to correspond with Facebook in hopes of ending the negative stigma that they still hold towards cannabis. Until then we’ll remain positive and patient as we strive for change.

Are we missing something? Do you agree or disagree with us? Are you a Canadian cannabis brand with a similar story? If you have advice to give or an opinion to share, we want to hear from you. Leave a message in the comment box below. 


 

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Citations:
https://www.facebook.com/policies/ads/prohibited_content/illegal_products_or_services

https://www.the-cma.org/regulatory/code-and-guidelines/CMA-Guide-Permitted-Cannabis-Marketing-Activities

https://www.iphoneincanada.ca/news/facebook-23-million-users-canada/