By Marisa DeZara
Apple and Instagram have tough policies regarding marijuana businesses, and entrepreneurs are feeling the effects. Businesses of any kind, especially those which operate through the Internet, rely on Apple to accommodate its apps. However, according to App Store policies, marijuana-related tech companies face unnecessary restrictions.
Entrepreneurs who have started businesses dedicated to making money in the legal marijuana space are experiencing difficulty when trying to gain Apple’s approval to feature their apps in the store. Digital marijuana publications, much like MJINews, social media businesses, ad networks and dispensaries are all having trouble with Apple.
As Adweek explained, “Pot tech entrepreneurs say Apple’s restrictions are unpredictable, unfair and threatening the growth of a budding industry.” Although the marijuana market is legitimate and legal in states like Colorado, where most of these businesses are sprouting, Apple still sets the precedent for what can and cannot be featured in its store.
Apple’s business practices are seemingly discriminatory, but like any other business, it maintains the right to determine what it wants to sell. The App Store is the medium for businesses of all kinds to promote and reach consumers, and it can ultimately make or break companies.
Businesses like MassRoots, a social media network for marijuana enthusiasts, are suffering because of Apple’s stance. Apple has recently banned MassRoots and it has also banned a game called Weed Firm. A letter that MassRoots wrote to Apple prompted its supporters to circulate an online petition.
“Apple really hurt us and our right to assemble, our right to free speech, and our right to mobilize cannabis consumers like any other constituency,” said Isaac Dietrich, CEO of MassRoots. Dietrich informed Adweek that even Weedmaps was told by Apple to adjust its promotional activity regarding recreational dispensaries.
If this is not bad enough for marijuana-related business, Instagram is also enforcing a strict anti-marijuana business policy. According to Buzzfeed, Instagram cancelled Shane Fairbrother’s company account, @themedtainer, and more than 10,000 followers disappeared with it.
“I can understand kicking off certain people that aren’t following guidelines or posting things that cast the [cannabis] industry in a bad light, but we’ve always been aboveboard,” Fairbrother said.
Instagram has its radar out for marijuana-related businesses, but that does not mean that individual marijuana users, hash oil extractors and edible makers are exempt from getting banned. It is difficult for Instagram to police the 60 million photos posted daily; however, it has arbitrarily banned certain accounts merely because of the potential for illegal drug activity.
Instagram, the App Store and other social media outlets are of utmost importance for marijuana entrepreneurs. Their businesses rely on this media to advertise and target consumers. The industry is being limited and constrained by Instagram and Apple’s regulations surrounding the legal marijuana space. How will marijuana-related businesses, particularly the digital ones, thrive without access, or at least limited access, to such significant and necessary social platforms?