Google has announced that the buying and selling of marijuana through apps distributed by its Play Store will not be allowed.
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The new rule, which rolled out late May, bans the “facilitating” of marijuana sales through any apps, meaning that you can no longer buy or sell marijuana through a Google app. Google has pointed out that they are not banning all marijuana apps and that they are trying to make sure that all apps are up to date on their policies.
In a statement to The Verge, a Google Spokesperson said
“These apps simply need to move the shopping cart flow outside of the app itself to be compliant with this new policy. We’ve been in contact with many of the developers and are working with them to answer any technical questions and help them implement the changes without customer disruption.”
Google Is Following In Facebook's Steps
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Still, this move comes not long after Facebook announced that after months of internal debate they had decided to continue to try and stop the sale of marijuana on their platform.
Both moves have been a blow to marijuana companies, who have often had to resort to online marketing to reach bigger audiences.
While the move isn’t a good one for marijuana, it isn’t surprising, according to HempStaff CEO James Yagielo.
“Google has not been friendly to the Cannabis Industry,” Yagielo told The Stash. “They’ve caused us problems with advertising since 2015.”
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Yagielo says that for years Google has effectively prohibited marijuana companies from advertising with them, which has caused a huge barrier for businesses.
“What happened with Google Ads has had a huge impact on our business,“ Yagielo said. “With this move, companies are going to have to take different approaches to getting business.”
HempStaff, a recruiting company, works across the cannabis industry and each of its subsets, which has shown Yagielo some of the techniques that businesses are coming up with.
“We’ve seen mass texting more, as companies are reaching out to the people already registered with them to talk to them directly,” Yagielo said.
Yagielo points out that while some platforms have effectively banned cannabis, some may take those bans and go with them in stride.
What Will Apple Do?
“I’m interested to see how Apple is going to react,” Yagielo commented. “When Google banned our ads, Twitter embraced them and that's where most of our advertising is done now.”
Apple has already banned the sale of marijuana through its apps, but it has eased up on restrictions and enforcement in recent years.
The recent move by Google is seen as one that falls in line with their attempts to make its app store a more “child-friendly” environment.
“Google’s action makes it harder for legal adults to purchase legal cannabis, which is not good for anyone,” says David Mack, senior vice president of policy and public affairs at Eaze, told Rolling Stone. “People will wonder why and who they’re trying to help here. Is it trying to protect their bottom line? Who can say? But we’re concerned by the general trend that adults are prevented from buying legal things via apps.”
These actions fall in line with the common theme of big tech not understanding or knowing what to do with marijuana.
Companies like eBay are still prohibiting the sale of related items like CBD on their platforms, which has created a vacuum for marijuana companies.
“There is a need,” Yagielo said. “And someone will take advantage of it.”