Apple now allows legal cannabis businesses to distribute pot delivery apps through its App Store, but Google and Facebook continue to block everything related to weed.Residents of weed-legal states will soon be able to order cannabis products to their door using a variety of convenient iPhone apps.
Last month, Apple quietly updated its iOS App Store guidelines to remove a blanket prohibition on apps allowing customers to buy cannabis. In its initial policy, Apple explicitly banned all “apps that encourage consumption of tobacco and vape products, illegal drugs, or excessive amounts of alcohol.” The company also banned any app that would facilitate “the sale of controlled substances (except for licensed pharmacies), marijuana, or tobacco.”
But under Apple’s new policy, this ban on drug-related apps has been updated to exclude “licensed pharmacies and licensed or otherwise legal cannabis dispensaries.” These guidelines now allow state-licensed cannabis businesses to place weed apps in the App Store, but will still block third-party developers from distributing pot apps. The new guidelines will also require cannabis sales apps to be geo-restricted so that they only work in states or countries where cannabis is legal.
Chris Vaughn, CEO of California-based delivery service Emjay, recently told WeedWeek that he “had a feeling this was coming,” especially since five US states have legalized weed so far this year. Vaughn, who considers delivery services to be “probably the biggest opportunity in cannabis,” directed his company to create an iOS delivery app before Apple even announced its policy change. Emjay has already submitted its new app for review.
With these new guidelines, Apple has become one of the few massive tech conglomerates to accept the fact that most US states have now legalized cannabis in some form. Meanwhile, Facebook and Instagram have been deleting the accounts of legal weed businesses, even in Canada, where pot is federally legal. The social media monolith has also gone so far as to ban all cannabis-related advertising, including most legal CBD products.
And not only do Facebook and other social media sites ban cannabis dispensaries, they have “shadow banned” news sites like Marijuana Moment and even official state government agencies like the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission. In 2019, a company offering a series of educational courses on safe cannabis consumption methods eventually sued Facebook for censoring and suppressing information regarding the legal use of pot.
Unlike Apple, Google is working to exclude the legal cannabis industry from its own mobile app platform. In 2019, Google updated its Android app store guidelines to explicitly ban “apps that facilitate the sale of marijuana or marijuana products, regardless of legality,” including apps that allow “users to order marijuana through an in-app shopping cart feature” or help “users in arranging delivery or pick up of marijuana.”