The TikTok cannabis ad ban is blocking leaders in New York from using the popular video hosting platform to further its public education program on cannabis. They are seeking to have the ban lifted so they can use the platform to run advertisements that educate New Yorkers about legal adult-use cannabis. Officials expect sales to start in New York in late 2022.
In a letter to TikTok, Chris Alexander, executive director of the New York Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), asked the social media company to remove its ban on any ad that mentions the word “cannabis.”
“We’re running our Cannabis Conversation public education ads on billboards, on subways, on TV, and all over social media. But not on TikTok, which rejected our ads,” the OCM said in a Tweet. “So, we sent them a letter demanding they allow cannabis education ads on their platform.”
TikTok Is Owned By Chinese Multinational Corporation
TikTok is wildly popular around the world and has become such a cultural icon that even “Saturday Night Live” made a parody of what it’s like to scroll through the video platform. The company is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese-owned company headquartered in Beijing. In China, the service is known as Douyin.
In his letter, Alexander wrote that the OCM hoped to use advertisements on TikTok to educate people in New York about what a legal cannabis marketplace will mean to them and how to use the system legally. However, the TikTok cannabis ad ban resulted in the service rejecting the ads.
“One report indicates 75 percent of TikTok users are between the ages of 18 and 34, a demographic we are attempting to target with our public education campaigns,” the letter states. They added that this group also includes parents and caretakers “who deserve access to the tools we’re providing to help them discuss the risk of cannabis with the youth in their lives.”
Alexander also noted that the public health education campaign delivers a message on how it is “unsafe and illegal” to drive while impaired by cannabis.
Social Media and the Cannabis Industry
As noted by Marijuana Moment, the relationship between social media companies and the cannabis industry and industry regulators has “proven complicated.”
For example, the California Bureau of Cannabis Control has complained about getting “shadow banned” by Facebook, with their profile pages not showing up on conventional searches. At one point, Facebook said it would loosen its restrictive cannabis policies, “but it’s unclear what steps it’s taken to achieve that,” Marijuana Moment reported.
One big exception is the Amazon-owned video game service, Twitch. It changed its policy to allow users to keep cannabis-related handles on the service. Twitch has 150 million active monthly users.
Consuming cannabis is allowed on Twitch as long as streamers live where cannabis is legal, according to Forbes. Those who use cannabis when it is not legal in their area may face criminal prosecution if reported.
Forbes added: “However, some experts advise streamers not to smoke when streaming in the current Twitch environment as it is still very controversial.”