Apple Now Allows Marijuana Businesses On Its App Store, While Google Maintains Ban
Apple will no longer prohibit marijuana delivery services from being hosted on its App Store—one of the latest pro-cannabis developments to come out of the tech industry.
The policy was updated last month to remove the ban, with some restrictions. A marijuana app must be geo-restricted to jurisdictions where cannabis is legal, and the program must be “submitted by a legal entity that provides the services, and not by an individual developer.”
Here’s what the previous policy said:
“Apps that encourage consumption of tobacco and vape products, illegal drugs, or excessive amounts of alcohol are not permitted on the App Store. Apps that encourage minors to consume any of these substances will be rejected. Facilitating the sale of controlled substances (except for licensed pharmacies), marijuana, or tobacco is not allowed.
The new policy, which was updated on June 7, reads:
“Apps that encourage consumption of tobacco and vape products, illegal drugs, or excessive amounts of alcohol are not permitted on the App Store. Apps that encourage minors to consume any of these substances will be rejected. Facilitating the sale of controlled substances (except for licensed pharmacies and licensed or otherwise legal cannabis dispensaries), or tobacco is not allowed.”
“Apps that provide services in highly-regulated fields (such as banking and financial services, healthcare, gambling, legal cannabis use, and air travel) or that require sensitive user information should be submitted by a legal entity that provides the services, and not by an individual developer. Apps that facilitate the legal sale of cannabis must be geo-restricted to the corresponding legal jurisdiction.”
TechCrunch first reported on the new guidelines, and WeedWeek later flagged the marijuana-specific guidance.
In contrast, Google’s Android app hub updated its policy in 2019 to explicitly prohibit programs that connect users with cannabis, no matter whether it is legal in the jurisdiction where the user lives.
“We don’t allow apps that facilitate the sale of marijuana or marijuana products, regardless of legality,” it says, adding that some examples of violations would be “allowing users to order marijuana through an in-app shopping cart feature” or “assisting users in arranging delivery or pick up of marijuana.”
It also says that “facilitating the sale of products containing THC(Tetrahydrocannabinol), including products such as CBD oils containing THC” is against its policies.
Chris Vaughn, CEO of the California delivery service Emjay, told WeedWeek that he believes Apple’s decision was informed by the continuing legalization movement in states like New York, as well as Amazon’s recent announcement that it will no longer be drug testing workers for cannabis in addition to lobbying for a federal legalization bill. He added that he thinks Google will “follow quickly” to update its own policies.
The tech industry has had a strained relationship with the marijuana industry, even as a growing number of states have decided to legalize and regulate the sale of cannabis.
Facebook, which in 2019 showed off its artificial intelligence technology that’s capable of identifying images of marijuana, continues to prohibit the commercial advertising of cannabis products, regardless of the legality of the business under state law.
Noncommercial cannabis news sites such as Marijuana Moment and state regulatory bodies like the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission have also been caught up in the anti-marijuana policy despite the fact that they do not promote or sell cannabis products. In some cases, it appears these organizations have been hidden from appearing in search results—a practice known as “shadowbanning.”
Despite marijuana firms being banned from Google’s app market, some of the company’s top officials seem pretty bullish about loosening cannabis laws. Google co-founder Sergey Brin joked about supplying employees with joints at a post-election meeting in 2016.
“I was asking if we could serve joints outside on the patio, but apparently these things take a little while to take effect,” Brin said, referring to the implementation of California’s cannabis legalization measure. “It was a huge, huge disappointment. I’ve been bemoaning that all week, I’ll be honest with you.”
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Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.