ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — New York State marijuana regulators are asking the social media app TikTok to stop banning advertising that involves the word “cannabis” as they work to promote public education on the state’s move to legalize.
The Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) sent a letter to TikTok executives on Monday, urging them to revise their advertising policy for government entities so that they can freely talk about marijuana in a public health and safety context.
According to OCM Executive Director Chris Alexander, the office has launched a “Cannabis Conversations” campaign to inform New Yorkers about “who can purchase cannabis, where can you legally use cannabis, and how one can safely use cannabis, including protecting youth.”
“We are airing ads from this campaign on broadcast television, on billboards across New York, and on various social media platforms,” he wrote. However, when OCM tried to extend that campaign to the social media platform, regulators were “informed that [TikTok] does not take cannabis ads of any kind, including ones from government accounts promoting health and education.”
“But we know our colleagues at the New York State Department of Health have run paid advertisements on TikTok as part of their public health campaigns,” the letter says. “We hope to be allowed to run similar public health campaigns on your platform. We ask you to please reconsider your current blanket ban on advertisements using the word ‘cannabis’ on TikTok.”
TikTok is an extremely valuable asset for advertising, noted the letter. One report indicates that 75% of TikTok users are between the ages of 18 and 34, a demographic the office is trying to target with its public education campaigns.
“This group includes a critical age range, of those over 18 but under 21, where brains are still growing and our messaging provides information on the risks they face at that young age if they use it,” said Alexander.
The relationship between social media companies and marijuana businesses, influencers, and regulators has been complicated and inconsistent amid the legalization movement in New York State.
Companies have complained in the past of being “shadow-banned” on certain social media, including the giants of Facebook and Instagram under parent company Meta.
Alexander wants to reverse that trend. “We ask you to join us in the effort to make sure the end of cannabis prohibition in New York is safe for residents of all ages,” he said. “Clear and truthful public health information is essential in our public information campaigns, and TikTok could be a valued partner in this fight for public safety. But that can only be the case if you allow us to run advertisements on your platform.”