Twitter relaxed its rules on cannabis advertising—but the overall landscape for brands remains weedy

Platform-specific rules and varying state laws mean cannabis advertising is more complex (and expensive) than some would like.
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· 5 min read

420, advertise it (where allowed).

As more states legalize recreational cannabis use around the country, major digital platforms are adjusting their marketing policies accordingly. Last month, Twitter updated its ad policy to allow cannabis ads in states where cannabis is legal, and the month prior, Google relaxed some of its restrictions on advertising hemp and CBD products.

Still, brands in the space are left to navigate a web of state laws and platform-specific policies in their marketing plans. Some sites, like TikTok, don’t allow the depiction or promotion of any drugs, including cannabis, whether that’s organic content or paid marketing efforts.

“It’s no secret that, as marketers, we have one hand tied behind our backs, with probably a foot as well,” Joe Hodas, CMO at edibles company Wana Brands, told us.

As a result, marketers in the cannabis industry said they’re evaluating their social and digital strategies while looking for other potentially less-regulated marketing channels.

The new social frontier

Earlier this month, Balanced Health Botanicals, which sells hemp-derived CBD products under brand names including CBDistillery, started taking advantage of Twitter’s more 420-friendly advertising policy.

On Twitter, Balanced Health Botanicals can now link directly to brand websites that conduct transactions, Chase Terwilliger, president and CEO of the company, told us. It’s more direct than on Meta, where the company cannot direct people to websites that ”promote or offer the sale” of cannabis products. Instead, the company points users to an “educational website” and hopes they find the company’s products on their own, he added.

“This isn’t solving everything at Twitter, but it’s one step in the right direction,” Terwilliger said.

Balanced Health Botanicals spent about $15k total on Twitter this month—less than it’s currently spending on Facebook, according to Terwilliger. “We’re gonna start small until we can make sure that customer acquisition costs pencil out, and then we’ll hopefully pour gasoline on the fire,” he said.

Despite Twitter’s updated guidelines, there are still limitations: Ads on the platform can’t depict, promote, or “offer the sale of” cannabis products (except for certain topical CBD products), and they cannot depict the use of cannabis products. Because of the restrictions, Hodas has a “hard time seeing how it makes sense” to pay to advertise on the platform.

As of now, Hodas said the brand’s social media presence is entirely made up of organic content. On Instagram, Wana Brands, which primarily posts “educational and benign” content, Hodas said, nonetheless sees posts get flagged with “no real answers to why and no recourse as to how to get it back up.”

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“We’re constantly in fear of getting kicked off the platforms,” Hodas said.

Across the (tangled) web

Both brands Marketing Brew spoke to are looking outside of social platforms to market products legally. Balanced Health Botanicals has historically seen high ROI  from affiliate marketing with bloggers, Terwilliger told us. Wana Brands, meanwhile, is exploring programmatic ad buys, both digital and on podcasts, Hodas said.

Working with publishers can also be an attractive option. Cannabis-centric agencies like FlowerShop Media help connect dispensaries and companies like Balanced Health Botanicals with platforms and publishing companies like Penske and Hearst, FlowerShop Media CEO and co-founder David Breckling told us. Some successful campaigns include a homepage takeover of Rolling Stone for the medical marijuana company Cresco Labs and a Food Network screen wrap for Mindy’s Edibles.

Software company Fyllo works with cannabis brands to help ensure compliance with state regulations and platform requirements while targeting the right demographics. Jeff Ragovin, chief commercial officer at Fyllo, said brands it has worked with see the most success through omnichannel marketing that includes publisher sites, CTV, and OOH screens.

“We’re in a new paradigm shift for cannabis where you have the opportunity to do what mainstream brands are doing [in their marketing],” he said. Still, he acknowledged that there are limitations on cannabis brands, especially when it comes to what can be depicted in creative like video ads.


Given the complexities of digital, some brands are looking at IRL marketing options. One marketing tactic Wana Brands spends the most on, Hodas said, is swag. “It’s one of the few areas that’s not highly, highly regulated,” he said, and branded merchandise “lends to brand building and loyalty for the brand.”

Wana also offers “budtender” training to help drive sales and sponsors events like the Ann Arbor Film Festival.

Balanced Health Botanicals, meanwhile, advertises its hemp-derived THC by painting trucks and driving them around major cities. Another campaign that helped drive buzz for the brand, he said, was by running five billboard ads in Times Square.

Terwilliger said he anticipates continued baby steps, like Twitter’s adjusted policies, rather than leaps and bounds as the legal cannabis industry matures. As a result, he said, companies should keep thinking strategically about how to stay relevant—or risk going out of business.

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