Big Tech is finally warming up to cannabis and the cannabis industry


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This article was contributed by Paul Dunford, co-founder and director of program development at Green Check Verified.

The tweet and the problem

On February 13, 2021, actor and cannabis farmer Jim Belushi posted: Twitter:

“So sick of Facebook/Instagram. They shadow forbidden my farms [sic] Belushi’s Farm Facebook page and our Instagram. PLUS, they are constantly removing our content. Don’t they know cannabis? [sic] is a drug?”

This tweet highlighted one of the lesser-known issues facing the cannabis industry: an antagonistic relationship with “Big Tech.” In addition to social media like Facebook and Instagram (both owned by Zuckerberg’s Meta), cannabis-specific content has been aggressively (but inconsistently) suppressed by companies like Apple and google. In the latter case, the search giant is banning ads for “substances that alter the mental state for recreation or otherwise cause a “high,” a frustrating restriction that has led to a cottage industry of marketers using smart workarounds.

However, some of this was relaxed in 2021. For example, check out the Facebook page for Belushi’s Farm is up, and in July Apple has their App Store Rating Policy to exempt “legal cannabis pharmacies” from their ban on apps that “[facilitate] the sale of controlled substances”, providing a streamlined mobile experience for delivery services such as leafy. While some companies are chasing after, Google clarified that apps that “facilitate the sale of marijuana or marijuana products, regardless of legality” are not welcome in the Google Play Store – the tide is clearly starting to turn.

A pivotal turning point for the cannabis industry

Notably, in 2021, one of the largest tech companies in the world, Amazon (ranked higher on the Fortune 500 list than Apple) took a series of bold steps in support of the cannabis industry. In June’Update on our vision to be the best employer on the planet and the safest workplace on the planetThe company made two major announcements.

First, they have amended their standard drug testing policies and “marijuana will no longer be included in our comprehensive drug screening program for positions not regulated by the Department of Transportation.” Second, they expressed support for the recently introduced marijuana reinvestment and disposal (LAKE) Act. This legislation would “legalize marjuana at the federal level, clear criminal records and invest in affected communities.” They also expressed the “hope that other employers will join us and that policymakers will act quickly to pass the law”. They followed in September with a letter to Senators Schumer, Wyden and Booker, who express their support for the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (still in draft form). Finally they have put their money on their proverbial mouth and have lobbied on Capitol Hill in support of federal marijuana reform. The company disclosed that a portion of its $4.7 million lobbying spending in the third quarter of 2021 was earmarked for “[issues] related to […] cannabis reform, including the MORE Act of 2021 (HR 3617) and the Cannabis Administration & Opportunity Act (draft form – no account numbers).”

Why is this important?

It’s important to remember that Amazon doesn’t just sell tangible goods like laundry detergent and video games – it’s a technology company that, through their cloud computing platform Amazon Web Services, essentially controls much of the Internet (as highlighted during the recent AWS outage). ). Furthermore, Amazon’s portfolio is: stuffed up with significant assets in all areas of physical and e-commerce, from grocery store Whole Foods Market to streaming site Twitch and even online pharmacy PillPack. Some of the more optimistic voices in the industry even suggest that purchasing a virtual pharmacy is proof that Amazon is laying the groundwork for marijuana sales online once cannabis is fully legalized at the federal level.

The role of reputation risk

Any company that provides banking compliance software for financial institutions banking the marijuana industry should be well aware of the role reputation risk plays in the decision-making process that banks and credit unions must go through when making the decision to offer services to state legal counsel. cannabis companies. Some fear they’ll lose customers if the public finds out they’re a “weed bank,” but it’s important to remind them that Amazon, like Apple, isn’t about taking unnecessary risks. It is clear that they have evaluated the current conflict between state and federal law and have come to the conclusion that approving or accommodating cannabis on their platforms does not pose enough reputational risk that they will not capitalize on the market opportunities presented by the growing legal marijuana market. -industry.

Looking to the future of the cannabis industry

Long-standing concerns about possible consumer reactions, or even fears that the federal government would one day abruptly change its hands-off approach to state-legal cannabis companies and shut down these programs, become less likely as the world’s largest companies shed some skin. game. State-legal marijuana isn’t going away anytime soon, and the industry’s embrace by big techs should provide financial institutions with evidence of that — and some reassurance.

Paul Dunford is co-founder and director of program development at Green Check Verified.

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