Cannabis companies are turning to influencers to grow their business and get around platforms’ ad bans. MedMen, for one, is using influencers as part of a $4 million campaign around Los Angeles to show its retail outlets are in high-end shopping districts.
But even though cannabis is becoming legal in more states and gaining social acceptability, influencers are still anxious about doing weed tie-ups.
Influencer agency Heartbeat pairs companies with nearly 200,000 micro-influencers and just signed two new cannabis clients that want to promote their goods on Instagram: Miss Grass, an online store and publication; and Sagely Naturals, an e-commerce site. But only 30 percent of the agency’s influencers said they were comfortable doing so.
“There’s a lot of confusion that’s blocking influencers from getting on board,” said Brian Freeman, founder and CEO of Heartbeat. “They are scared of legal ramifications, and they don’t want YouTube to shut them down.”
Influencers do have a reason to be cautious. Facebook, Instagram, Google and Snapchat don’t allow cannabis ads; Snapchat will consider ads for CBD products (which are derived from cannabis but don’t get users high) on a case-by-case basis, a Snapchat spokesperson said. Its terms don’t say anything specifically about influencers promoting cannabis products, and influencer agencies say they haven’t had problems. But some influencers say they’ve had their accounts deleted due to their marijuana content.
Last week, Bess Byers, an Instagram influencer who posts about cannabis, posted that her account was disabled. She’s waiting to hear back about her appeal and said she planned to petition for Instagram to change its Terms of Service. An Instagram spokesperson said the account was taken down because it violated the platform’s marijuana policy, which also pertains to influencers; the platform does not allow any content that promotes the sale of marijuana regardless of state or country.