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Marijuana Is Legal in Colorado, but Not on Google and Twitter

Online ad industry wrestles with how to handle bumper crop of new ad budgets

Pot is legal in Colorado but not on Google and Twitter. At least not yet.

A million-dollar-a-day industry is budding out West, but marketers are trying to grapple with how to advertise the once illegal weed. Digital advertising giants like Google and Twitter aren’t open to sponsored search ads or tweets from small-business marijuana shops. Apple restricts that kind of content on its mobile app store. As a result, “potrepreneurs” will need to get creative in a hurry.

The entire industry is still exploring how to navigate the regulations —public policy and private-company restrictions— of marketing marijuana.

Once the rules are clarified (and that could take months), expect a flood of endorsements from celebs “known for their open marijuana views like Woody Harrelson,” said Jarrod Moses, CEO of United Entertainment Group.

“Snoop Dogg can be the Michael Jordan of the weed market,” noted Nick Adler, vp of business development at Cashmere Agency, a lifestyle marketing firm that represents the hip-hop star. Snoop Dogg already has attached his name to a pot-smoking pen called the G Pen. And there is potential for more deals like a Snoop Dogg strain of pot—similar to Jack Daniel’s whiskey.

While pot brands face regulation when directly marketing on Google, they are free to go elsewhere—they’ve been featured in Snoop Dogg YouTube videos on his WestFestTV channel as well as in his mobile app Snoopify.

While Apple isn’t exactly encouraging anybody to sell pot on iPhones just yet, there’s an app called Weedmaps, which is basically a Yelp for pot.

Meanwhile, Colorado pot tours could yield viable ad dollars, much in the way that Napa has become a wine-tour destination; plenty of California wineries bid on Google keywords. A recent search for “Colorado marijuana tours” did surface a banner search ad at the top of the results for getelevatedcolorado.com, clearly promising a Rocky Mountain high vacation. Daniel Moorefield, project manager at Get Elevated Colorado tours, said that while signage and print marketing laws are restrictive in Colorado, he’s figured out how to advertise on Google and Facebook. “It all comes down to correct keywording,” he said.

Still, most pot-based searches returned no sponsored results. Both Google and Twitter declined to comment.

For now, a number of Colorado businesses are relying on a much simpler, low-tech form of advertising. “Grassroots word of mouth,” said Chris Leonard, head of Colorado Green Adventures.

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