Instagram’s love/hate relationship with weed is well-documented by now. The cannabis industry’s number one marketing tool, Instagram has a long, complicated history of deleting weed-laced accounts, usually without any explanation.
The social network has deleted numerous notable accounts in the past to the extent that hundreds if not thousands of cannabis accounts lay in an Instagram weed graveyard. As someone who has lost a fair share of accounts–some over 100,000–I can attest to its devastation on one’s psyche and/or business.
Now, in a bizarre/unexpected twist, Instagram is apparently allowing Sponsored ads from cannabis companies and personalities. The first “Sponsored” ad I noticed on my Instagram feed in the last two weeks was none other than MedMen aka “a $1 billion cannabis company”:
There is no mention of the word cannabis or marijuana or dabs or weed anywhere in this post. That is probably one reason why Instagram’s QA team let this one slide. Or perhaps it just slipped through some robotic crack.
Either way, it’s hard to imagine anyone with a brain at Instagram can’t Google MedMen and instantly find out the company has dispensaries across three huge markets (New York, California, Nevada). MedMen’s image is as corporate as cannabis gets and perhaps they have ties to Instagram. But it’s more likely it just…happened.
The next “Sponsored” post I noticed on my feed was from the Olympics of Weed: the 420 Games.
The ad itself shows no mention of weed itself which is probably why it jived with Instagram’s code of confusion. The 420 Games is pretty obviously a cannabis company–the word 420 is in the name–and pretty clearly state its intentions:
“A series of athletic events advocating the responsible use of cannabis & to help destigmitize the millions of people who use it in a positive manner.”
Consumption occurs at The 420 Games, but the brand’s Instagram image is somewhat innocuous–though it does include smoke.
Last but not lease, I noticed a popular hashmaker’s “Sponsored” post:
Perhaps Instagram thought this full melt hash was lip balm?
But that’s not all. To view the content on California’s Bloom Farms page, Instagram has installed (or opened up) an age gate I’ve never seen before:
Advertising on Instagram isn’t a new thing for cannabis brands, as accounts grow by purchasing ad space from other major accounts like a Weed Humor. But being permitted to do so if not supported by Zuckerberg and co.? That’s major.
Instagram is, in essence, where marijuana brands live and connect with people. Having to start over and build from scratch is a tough pill to swallow. And it’s an even tougher pill to swallow when some corporate cannabis accounts like Weedmaps, and Beboe and Big Mike have the coveted blue checkmarks.
Instagram’s policy with cannabis has been covered and appears rather black and white: you can’t promote the sale of cannabis or facilitate the sale of cannabis on the platform.
Our policy prohibits any marijuana seller, including dispensaries, from promoting their business by providing contact information like phone numbers, street addresses, or by using the “contact us” tab in Instagram Business Accounts. We do however allow marijuana advocacy content as long as it is not promoting the sale of the drug. Dispensaries can promote the use and federal legalization of marijuana provided that they do not also promote its sale or provide contact information to their store. [Law Street Cannabis]
In other words, you’re allowed to promote your cannabis brand but not selling the actual plant. But now?
Now it clearly appears Instagram’s robots are letting some ads slip through the cracks or Zuckerberg’s squad has started to loosen the reigns on cannabis advertising in anticipation of full-blown, nationwide and worldwide legalization.
No matter the rhyme or reason for the ads being permitted, it’s at once simultaneously revolting and exciting to see Instagram seemingly change its tune to cannabis content. Or have they?
Because there is only one short answer to Instagram’s never-ending saga with weed: WHO KNOWS?
But what once seemed like a surefire Instagram Death Sentence–promoting weed on the network–now seems like a viable if not permissible way to advertise your cannabis brand.