Marijuana legalization is widespread. As of April 2023, 38 states, three territories, and the District of Columbia allow the medical use of cannabis products. The legislation is having a direct impact on U.S. cannabis advertising rules.

Twitter is a major corporation that is behind marijuana legalization, and they are showing it by easing up on their cannabis advertising regulations. Read on to find out about important company changes.

What Changes Are Being Made to Twitter’s U.S. Cannabis Advertising Rules?

Twitter is now allowing state-legal businesses to show packaged marijuana products in their advertisements. They are increasing ad exposure to new U.S. markets. They are also letting advertisers “continue responsibly linking to their owned and operated web pages and e-commerce experiences for CBD, THC, and cannabis-related products and services,” Twitter head of sales and partnerships Alexa Alianiello wrote in a blog post.

“We have also made some changes for medical licenses and opened up additional recreational markets (some restrictions apply),” the post went on to say.

The company’s drug advertising policy, which is posted on its website, does not specify which new cannabis markets are open for advertising-related products.

However, according to Rosie Mattio, founder and CEO of the New York-based cannabis marketing firm Mattio Communications, Twitter is now permitting advertisers to target users in the following states:

The company also allows cannabis advertising that targets Canadian and Thailand markets subject to policies.

Mattio told the press that Twitter’s decision to change its cannabis advertising rules to allow images of packaged cannabis products to be used in ads brings “a lot more opportunity to these brands to reach consumers and teach them about the actual product, (as opposed to) it just being a brand-awareness type of play.”

Twitter’s History of Cannabis Advertising

Twitter began allowing cannabis advertising on its platform in February. Cannabis business owners and marketers were pleased by the company’s decision. But they reported mixed results when they started using the platform for marketing purposes.

“We have seen companies of all sizes trying to advertise on Twitter,” said Lisa Buffo, founder, and CEO of the Cannabis Marketing Association. “Some, not all, have been approved, and others have had early and mixed results.

“With any advertising initiative, success depends on the match of the brand and the campaign to the platform- it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach,” she stated.

Alianiello addressed this matter in her blog post saying Twitter has “gathered meaningful feedback from the cannabis industry which we have taken into consideration to create even more opportunity.”

Buffo acknowledged Twitter’s efforts stating, “It appears that they are iterating and taking feedback from the industry and better understanding the nuanced of local laws and regulations.

“That should signal to the broader advertising world that a national approach to cannabis marketing is possible when taken in small and iterative steps.”

While Twitter is still testing its wings in the cannabis advertising forum, it could be a trendsetter in the field. Other social marketing companies, such as Facebook and Instagram parent company Meta, and Google parent company Alphabet, don’t allow cannabis marketing at all. However, Google will make exceptions for some CBD and hemp products.

What are U.S. Advertising Rules?

Cannabis advertising rules across the U.S. vary from state to state. Policies reflect the fact that cannabis is still illegal on a federal level. It is confusing the country.

74% of the 31 states that allow cannabis advertising prohibit gimmicks that target or appeal to minors. 68% do not allow companies to make false or misleading claims. More than 50% enforce rules on where ads can be placed. 42% have restrictions on building signage.

The United States also enforces the ‘30% rule’ for television and radio advertising. The law states that cannabis (and other questionable products) cannot be aired during a show where 30% or more of the audience are minors. People have often argued that the rule does little to protect children as it could still potentially expose millions of minors to the product.

Other issues in the U.S. market regard a lack of consistency in terms of digital ad requirements. Rules applying to the internet cannot be enforced due to nonexistent nationwide legalization. However, experts suggest that the country’s minors could benefit by age-gating which would require visitors to indicate whether they are 21 or over before entering certain websites.  

Cannabis Advertising: Canada vs. U.S.

Natasha C. Allard, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior in UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions, authored a paper comparing cannabis advertising rules in the United States and Canada. Its purpose was to point out how legalizing cannabis on a federal level could create clearer marketing guidelines.

“The lack of guidance makes things confusing for advertisers and also opens up the potential public health harms, such as youth being targeted with messaging or the spread of misinformation and false claims,” says Allard.

She points out that Canada addresses 11 illegal advertising tactics, such as glamorization and testimonials, which are not addressed in the United States.

She suggests that the United States prohibit cannabis companies from making false claims about their products. Many advertise it as a “wonder drug”.

She also feels states should consider requiring U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval before permitting companies to make health benefit claims regarding their products.

Canada has a much stricter approach towards cannabis advertising as compared to the U.S. The county prohibits 18 marketing strategies including appealing to minors, offering coupons and giveaways, promoting cosmetic and health benefits, testimonials, endorsements, false claims, and an association with tobacco and alcohol products.

The country also insists that cannabis companies take an informational approach and limit advertising mediums to adult-only channels.

“Many states could benefit from thinking through cannabis marketing and advertising activities and structuring these for those in the cannabis industry as legalization spreads,” said Allard.