Facebook and Google refuse pot ads, even where marijuana is legal

Stores can sell marijuana in Colorado and Washington but they can’t — for now — target potential customers on popular sites like Facebook(s fb), Twitter(s twtr) and Google(s goog). Despite the progressive reputations of these companies, they are keeping existing pot policies in place, frustrating the marijuana industry.

Taylor West of the National Cannabis Industry Association claims, for instance, that the trade group has tried to pay Facebook to “boost” certain stories  — including ones that simply linked to pot-related reports in publications like the New York Times — but the social network refused.

“It’s pretty ridiculous and short-sighted – not to mention hypocritical – for them to leave those legitimate ad dollars on the table,” wrote West by email, adding that,”We are told that our posts “violate content guidelines” or something along those lines.”

This reluctance to accept marijuana advertising is surprising given that the product is legal and that it’s possible to target online ads to certain demographics and locations. For now, however, the internet companies appear to feel that pot ads would be more trouble than they’re worth:

“The risk of attempting to allow ads promoting the drug in certain states or countries where it is legal is too high (no pun intended) for us to consider at this time,” explained Facebook spokesman, Tim Rathschmidt, by email. He added that company policies do permit advocacy ads (ie “legalize it”), but not ones that promote the use of recreation drugs, including pot.

Google likewise confirmed that it is maintaining existing ad rules that include a ban on ads for “substances that can alter the function of the brain to induce unnatural euphoria, or alter reality, such as marijuana [and] cocaine.” Google does allow alcohol advertising, as does Facebook.

Both companies stated that they update their policies frequently so the marijuana policies could change.

In the meantime, AdWeek reported that “potrepreneurs” are also shut out of Twitter, but also states that the online advertising landscape could change dramatically if the companies update their policies and if pot advocates like Woody Harrelson and Snoop Dogg become celebrity endorsers.

Image by william casey via Shutterstock