Until last week, Facebook prevented cannabis-related pages from showing up in its users’ search results. Thirty U.S. states have some type of legal cannabis sales, but Facebook banned the search results to prevent illegal sales of the substance via its platform. On the eve of Canada’s federal legalization of recreational cannabis use, the company changed that policy. Facebook will now show cannabis businesses that have been verified in its system, and users will see a blue or gray verification badge on pages that Facebook has confirmed belong to genuine organizations or businesses.
“It is encouraging to see Facebook taking a more nuanced look at the cannabis industry, distinguishing between illicit drug deals and legitimate businesses operating in the space,” said Bethany Gomez, Director of Research, Brightfield Group, a cannabis and hemp-focused market research firm providing consumer, brand, and market analysis in the industry.
Cannabis executives have felt hamstrung by legal limitations on their marketing activities because states where cannabis is sold have strict regulations on packaging, advertising, and promotional activities. “Most traditional channels are shut off to us,” said Erik Knutson, chief executive of Keef Brands.
Marketing limitations posed by companies like Google and Facebook that go above and beyond what is required by law, have had a significant impact on cannabis companies’ ability to develop their digital presence said Dustin Iannotti. He is co-founder, Artisans on Fire, a cannabis-focused marketing agency. “Creating a strategically sound digital marketing campaign in any industry always begins and ends with Google and Facebook Ads,” he said. “Cannabis brands have had to deal with barriers to this type of marketing since the birth of the industry.”
Now that search results for cannabis-related companies have opened up on Facebook, the