Even though nine states have currently legalized marijuana, either for recreational use or for medicinal use, it is still difficult for medical marijuana dispensaries in the OC, edibles shops, or dispensaries in Los Angeles to get information out about their products. In addition, businesses that help growers of marijuana with seeds and other equipment needed to grow and cultivate their plants also have a hard time advertising what they do, and getting the word out to customers or cultivators about the products they have.
The fact is, whether the marijuana is from medical dispensaries in Santa Ana, or a recreational marijuana shop in Orange County, marijuana is big business, not just for growers, but for dispensaries and the state governments as well. Estimates of the amount of money vary, but it is well in the billions of dollars. It is also estimated that the marijuana industry has provided thousands of jobs as well, either in the agricultural industry, the preparation of Cannabis for sale or employment at a dispensary.
With all of the money and jobs flowing out of the medical and recreational marijuana industry, it is interesting that until this point, Google has not been willing to work with the marijuana growers and dispensaries. The two major online advertising platforms in the world, Facebook and Google, refuse to allow any “drug-related” advertising on their platforms. While Google’s search engine allows people to search for marijuana-related products, they do not allow advertising of any kind, which makes it difficult to search for dispensaries in California, as well as tools or equipment that both growers and dispensaries use to cultivate, package and sell products. This has created a large problem, because in the states where marijuana is legal, people want to be able to advertise their product on platforms like Google. Google has said in the past that they will not allow advertising of marijuana products until the plant is legalized throughout the United States –which may not happen any time soon, as many states oppose marijuana sales outright, or they oppose the recreational use of marijuana. In Georgia, for example, it is legal to have CBD oil if you have registered with the state for medical reasons, but it is not legal to grow the marijuana needed to produce the oil in the state. Google has cited these examples as reasons why they do not want advertising of the plant on their platform.
However, there are signs that Google may be changing its stance on advertising marijuana on its platform. First, the company is located in California, where marijuana use is legal. Second, the company has been in discussions with several large marijuana companies with dispensaries on the West Coast to conduct pilot programs that would allow targeted advertising of marijuana. In addition, other large tech companies, such as Microsoft, have offered marijuana companies logistical advice, such as seed-to-store tracking, that allows marijuana businesses to be able to track where each seed they cultivated is going, which many customers like. Medical marijuana customers in particular want to see where their plants came from and that they were grown under the most controlled conditions possible, because they rely on the plant for medicinal use and alleviation of symptoms.
Perhaps the most important point about Google’s advertising is that the nature of advertising itself has changed. In the past, advertising took place in a wide area. For example, television, radio, and newspapers could reach an audience that was nationwide, or selectively in one area, such as a large city. There were also coupon or informational mailers that allowed advertisers to target a particular zip code. However, with the invention of the internet, advertising has vertising technology itself has grown and accelerated to the point that very specific populations can be targeted online. For example, the platforms on the internet are able to target women in their 30s who have young children for products such as toys, games, programs, and supplies for new moms.
For that reason, many technology experts have stated that platforms such as Google are able to specifically target potential marijuana customers and medical marijuana users based on their browser histories and searches. If the platform uses search data in order to target people who are over 21 that might be interested in marijuana, either for recreational or medicinal use. 730
In addition, the growing notion of marijuana as a business means that other platforms are going to be interested in allowing marijuana growers and dispensaries to advertise, because they realize that marijuana is no longer a back of the room herb, but a large, legitimate business.