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Medical Marijuana Google Ads | The loophole In Google Ads Policy

medical marijuana google ads

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Businesses part of the thriving cannabis industry still struggle when it comes to marketing their goods. This is simply because the largest search engine in the world is not a friendly place for medical marijuana or anything to do with cannabis, for that matter.

Running a simple Google ad for a medical marijuana business or any ancillary business dealing in pipes, bongs, rolling paper, etc. is far from simple. For the most part and for a large portion of the cannabis industry, advertising on Google is simply not an option.

At least, not in the way they’re used to.

Even though marijuana laws have evolved over the years and have become somewhat flexible, Google Ads (formerly Google Adwords) policies have not changed much. This begs the question – is it even possible to run medical marijuana ads on Google?

The answer is a bit tricky, maybe even surprising.

Is Cannabis Marketing Through Google Ads Allowed?

Put simply, NO.

Google does not permit ads that promote the use or sale of cannabis. This even covers informational content about cannabis.

And if you’re wondering whether there’s a distinction between recreational or medicinal cannabis, the answer is still no. Google treats all cannabis advertising equally.

Google’s advertising policy clearly states that any substance altering the mental state or inducing ‘highs’ cannot be advertised:

This policy applied to both Google Search and Display ads.

What is the Penalty for Violating Google’s Advertising Policy?

If you still try to skirt the law and are caught by Google advertising cannabis, your ad will be banned and removed. Any cannabis related keywords used in your ad copy or landing page will trigger Google’s policy instantly.

What if you try to run a new ad after some tweaking and are caught again? Well, this time Google will probably ban your account altogether and blacklist the URL of the website linked to the banned ad.

This course of action will play out irrespective of whether the ad in question is for promoting recreational marijuana or medical cannabis.

You do have the option of appealing an ad ban or an account suspension but a reinstatement only happens in the case of an honest mistake.

How, then, do cannabis businesses market their products on Google? There are many cannabis ads freely present in Google search results. What’s the loophole?

What goes into getting an ad approved?

Before we get into how you can get around Google’s cannabis advertising restrictions, you need to know what exactly is involved in Google approving or rejecting any ad, not just one for cannabis.

Ad Copy, Landing Page, Keywords

While analyzing any ad submitted to Google Ads, Google looks at its three major components:

  1. Ad copy

  2. Landing Page

  3. Bidding keywords

Your ad copy is the actual text or graphic you use in your search or display ad and is the user-facing component of your promotion.

The landing page is the destination a user lands on after clicking on your ad. It is usually a webpage and contains the content for which you want to generate website traffic.

And finally, the bidding keywords are the words or phrases you target when launching your ad.

For a cannabis business, advertisers cannot use words like cannabis, marijuana, weed, ganja, pipes, rolling paper, etc. in either the ad copy or the landing page, as this will lead to obvious rejection of the ad.

When it comes to keyword targeting, this is where cannabis advertisers see a ray of hope. Strategically managing keyword bidding is what makes cannabis marketing possible on Google.

Is it Possible to Promote a Cannabis Business Through Google Ads?

This is where we can finally say – YES, it’s possible.

As discussed above, you simply cannot use any marijuana or cannabis-related words or phrases in your ad copy and landing page. But what you can do is use marijuana-related keywords when bidding.

Wordplay Goes a Long Way

Google doesn’t scan the keywords you’re bidding for when analyzing your ads. That’s limited only to your ad copy and your landing page. Hence, without triggering Google’s advertising policy with cannabis keywords, you can freely bid for and rank for them.

This is how you get around the restrictions and run a successful cannabis ad through Google Ads.

Verdict: Is The Cost of SEO Worth It?

Suppose you are looking to implement a marketing strategy for your business. In that case, SEO can be the ideal process for attracting organic traffic to your website, increasing your brand visibility on the internet, and ranking your web pages on the search result pages. Whether you have a new website or you are running an old website, search engine optimization is important for getting favorable results.

Despite SEO being so expensive, it can be a perfect way to generate leads and sales. SEO takes care of your website and helps you stay ahead of the competition. With effective SEO practices, whenever a person searches a term on Google that is related to your business, your webpage lists on the top results of Google. This way, your online presence increases, and your sales increase.

Turnkey Mate is a leading name amongst the best SEO providers in the world. The company has shown tremendous results in the field of digital marketing to businesses all around the globe. Generate leads, attract prospective customers, and increase your digital presence with Turnkey Mate TODAY!

If you want to advertise marijuana with a google ad, try to carefully put together an ad copy and a landing page that doesn’t contain any of the trigger words related to marijuana. You can then bid for marijuana-related keywords and get ranked for them in Google’s search results.

To be perfectly clear, we’re not actively encouraging you to get around Google’s ad restrictions. In fact, this guide is intended to help you promote legitimate medical cannabis companies promote their products and services through the world’s largest search engine.

How to Run Cannabis Industry Google Ads?

Now that you know the loophole you can use to unlock cannabis marketing and run Google ads for your marijuana or cannabis products, you need to ensure you’re using every tool at your disposal.

Optimize Your Ads

Managing your medical marijuana ads is an ongoing process. You need to be on your toes constantly tracking your ad performance and ad spend.

Maybe your ads are plagued with under-performing landing pages or badly-optimized ad copy. Or maybe you’re not bidding for the right keywords.

You can gain valuable insights like these with Google Analytics that can help you refine and increase your medical cannabis ads and grow your cannabis brand.

Choosing the Right Partner

If you’re one of the cannabis brands too busy to manage an entire Google Ads program, partnering with the right agency will do wonders for your business.

Cannabis advertising is both an art and a science which benefits greatly from years of expertise and experience working with small and large businesses. Turnkey Mate can help you run a customized medical marijuana PPC campaign to increase conversions and revenue.

Not only on Google, but you can also benefit from advertising cannabis on Facebook, with Turnkey Mate’s advanced Facebook Pixel ad strategies.

Marijuana Laws Have Changed; Will Google Change Its Policies?

Although marijuana laws have evolved a lot from just a few years ago, Google, and even Facebook, have yet to change their policies when it comes to cannabis marketing.

The cannabis industry has struggled with federal laws, platform regulations, and just plain-old taboo. So what does the future hold? Is Google likely to change its stance on marijuana ads?

No one can say for sure but there are a few things that need to happen for Google to relax its restrictions.

Firstly, marijuana will have to be legalized federally by the USA.

Secondly, there needs to be a push from investors and tech evangelists to push the government to exclude recreational and medicinal marijuana from the cannabis advertising restrictions currently in place.

Only the future can tell what Google Ads holds for your cannabis business.

But, for now, are there any other ways for marijuana marketing other than Google Ads?

How to Advertise Medical Marijuana without Google Ads?

Google owns the biggest piece of the online advertising pie. And with the way it’s going, there seems to be no stopping it. So, are there any other ways you can use to advertise your marijuana products?

Purchase Banner Ad Space Directly

You can always decide to bypass the Google Ads network and approach a website directly, buying banner ad space from them. You can then run display ads on these select websites with no involvement from Google.

This enables you to be much more creative in your ad copies and landing pages as you’re no longer shackled by Google’s advertising policy.

Organic Marketing

The other alternative you have to promote and grow your website, and consequently, your business, is to use organic marketing techniques like SEO, content marketing, social media marketing, and public relations.

Organic marketing is powerful in the sense that it brings organic traffic to your website as a result of valuable and informational content delivered by you. It’s a validation of the fact that if you publish relevant and engaging content about your product or business, people will notice.

This holds true for marijuana businesses as well. Moreover, the better you are at SEO practices and content marketing, the better your data repository becomes with Google or Facebook.

When Google and Facebook’s ad policies finally change, you’ll have accumulated a veritable data repository with the platforms, which will inevitably benefit the performance of your ads and lower your CPC rates of your future ads.


Marijuana advertising will likely go through tons of changes as legal and societal trends evolve. What your business needs to perfect is making the best out of the current situation.

Advertising your cannabis products on Google might be tricky but it’s not impossible.

With a few strategic techniques, ad-free alternatives, and getting outside help, you can easily craft and run high-performing and legal marijuana ads.

Restricted Medical Content Google Ads | Google Advertising Policy

restricted medical content google ads

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Google advertising is more pervasive and commonplace than ever before. Any brand or business worth its salt needs to have a Google ads presence in today’s hyper-competitive market. And this applies to healthcare marketing as well.

Advertising healthcare services is different from almost any other product or service, owing to the restrictions and guidelines on healthcare advertisers by Google. Brands cannot freely advertise products and services without adhering to these guidelines and getting certified by Google to serve ads.

With all the restrictions unique to online advertising in the medical space, what should companies do to remain relevant online? And what’s the best way forward while designing your digital marketing strategy, specifically Google ad campaigns?

Can You Run Google Ads For Medicine?

Google has in place comprehensive guidelines for advertising products impacting prescription drugs, online pharmacies, unapproved substances, clinical trial recruitment, and many more.

And rightly so. Protecting the healthcare interests of people when it comes to their online persona should be a top priority for any platform. As a result, some substances cannot be advertised at all while some need a certification by Google to be advertised in select locations only.

If you want to advertise using any restricted drug terms or active ingredients in your ad copy or landing page, you need to apply to become a certified healthcare advertiser. For medical devices, your landing pages and ad copy should be clearly targeted towards healthcare professionals and not patients.

If your application is denied even after sticking to Google’s guidelines, you can always contact your Google ads rep. They might be able to help you get approval.

What is Restricted Medical Content in Terms of Google Ads?

Google casts a wide net when deciding the kind of products and content that can be advertised, erring on the side of caution. What this ends up doing is restricting the list of allowed substances and services that can be advertised using the Google Display Network or the Google Ads Search Network.

Before healthcare advertisers start crafting ad campaigns around Google ads policies, they should know exactly what Google considers restricted medical content.

Prescription Drugs without Prescription

Pharmaceutical companies are not allowed to offer prescription drugs without valid prescriptions. Due to the obvious negative repercussions, unauthorized pharmacies are restricted according to the Google ads policy.

Violations of these guidelines can lead to serious consequences for your Google ads account, leading to suspensions and some legal repercussions as well. If you believe you’ve been wrongfully penalized, you can submit an appeal with thorough justification.

Running Ads in a Target Location where You are not Licensed

Online pharmacies are also not allowed to promote products in regions where they aren’t licensed. If they do so, it amounts to Google considering them as unauthorized pharmacies.

Hence, as an online pharmacy, make sure you’re running ads only after being certified by Google to do so. Moreover, you also need to ensure you’re not offering prescription drugs without prescriptions and aren’t promoting them in locations where you aren’t a licensed pharmacy.

Restricted Drug Terms in Ad Copies and Landing Pages

In addition to restricted substances, Google also limits certain drug terms to be used in your ad text, landing pages, or keywords. While advertisers outside the US, Canada, or New Zealand aren’t permitted to promote prescription drugs, even those located in these three countries need to be certified to keyword target restricted prescription drug terms.

In some cases, Google allows exceptions to its Google AdWords policy – like public health and awareness campaigns run by the government or establish NGOs.

Unapproved Substances in Google Ads

When it comes to an outright prohibition on promoting certain products, Google has a fairly wide list of prohibited pharmaceuticals and supplements. Although this list contains as many as 162 categories of products that you cannot promote, no matter what, it is still not completely exhaustive.

Google has some additional banned categories of substances it doesn’t allow promotion for by players in the healthcare industry, some of which are:

  • Products containing ephedra

  • Products containing human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), especially in weight loss products or when promoted along with anabolic steroids

  • Products claiming to be as effective as prescription drugs

  • Herbal and dietary supplements containing active pharmaceutical ingredients or dangerous constituents

  • Products not approved by the government but promoted as being safe for use

Only approved countries’ manufacturers are allowed by Google to promote DHEA and Melatonin products.

Opioid Painkillers

Opioid painkillers are prevalent in medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which is one of the few exceptions where promoting them is permitted by Google. All other prescription opioid painkillers are not allowed to be promoted online.

However, Google allows exceptions to this policy for government and not-for-profit health awareness campaigns and certified addiction treatment providers in the United States.

Clinical Trials, Biohacking, Cell Therapies, And Gene Therapy

Experimental and non-regulated treatments and procedures are not allowed to be promoted under Google’s healthcare marketing policy. These include, but aren’t limited to biohacking, DIY genetic engineering products, and gene therapy kits.

Furthermore, regenerative medicine products like stem cell therapy, cellular therapy, gene therapy, and more are prohibited for promotion, regardless of their regulatory status.

Clinical trial recruitment ads are also limited to certain countries and aren’t allowed to advertise prescription drugs, misleading expectations, or imply that the products being tested are safe.

Abortion And Birth Control

The abortion-related ad group is one of the most restricted ones with Google allowing abortion ads only in select countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. Even then, you need to be certified, with a clear demarcation whether you’re a provider that provides abortion or doesn’t provide abortion.

Moreover, if your ads are part of the Google Ads Network (shown as part of search engines) and target multiple locations, your ads will only be shown in approved areas and will be classified as Eligible (limited).

HIV Home Tests

Lastly, Google prohibits the promotion of HIV home tests everywhere in the world except in the US, UK, France, and the Netherlands. While advertisers in the US can only promote FDA-approved HIV tests, those in the UK, the Netherlands, and France can promote tests that meet the local regulatory requirements.

What Can Healthcare Professionals Advertise on Google Ads?

After knowing about the breadth of restrictions on healthcare marketers, you might be wondering if there’s anything you ‘can’ advertise. Well, yes, you’re allowed to promote prescription and OTC drugs, but only in select regions.

Prescription Drugs in Limited Countries

Prescription drugs can be advertised only in select countries – Canada, New Zealand, and the United States. Even then, you need to be certified as a healthcare advertiser by Google before you can start promoting your products.

You also need to check whether Google allows keyword targeting related to prescription drug terms in your country.

While implementing this policy, Google checks whether your landing pages link to or use any terms referring to selling prescription drugs.

OTC Drugs in Select Countries

Google also allows advertising OTC or over-the-counter drugs in select countries like the US, the UK, France, Australia, Canada, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, New Zealand, and more. Just like prescription drugs, you need a certification from Google before advertising your OTC products.

Thought leadership improves your brand recognition and brings invaluable and organic traffic to your website and your online listings. You should start planning your content strategy right away if you don’t have one already.

How to Run a Successful Google Ads Campaign Without Restrictions?

Before you go ahead trying to build the perfect advertising strategy, you should be aware of Google’s personalized advertising policy. Google Display Network and Google Ads Network both prohibit advertisers to use personalized advertising – ads that employ user data to create more relevant ads. This is due to healthcare data’s sensitivity and privacy concerns.

Hence, ads that fall into sensitive interest categories like personal hardship and sexual interests cannot use personalized advertising features like remarketing, demographic and location targeting, Gmail ads, and more.

The Google Display Network, however, allows you to use three targeting methods in your ads – keyword, placement, and topic.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s look at a few tips to create a great Google Ads campaign for health products:

  1. Remarketing: While designing ads for the Google Ads network (text ads in search engine results), make sure you’re not using remarketing.

  2. Keyword Targeting: Try to target websites that do not use your desired keywords in a misleading or irrelevant manner. This will minimize the chances of your ads getting suspended.

  3. Landing Pages: Your landing pages need to provide comprehensive information to visitors, but at the same time need to be broken down into images, videos, proper headings, bullet points, etc. to keep the users engaged.

  4. Videos & Images: Google reported that 79% of visitors stay on healthcare websites that have videos. Use this to your advantage by investing in high-quality videos and images that illustrate your products and services better.

  5. PPC partner: Partnering with the right Google advertising agency can skyrocket the quality and effectiveness of your ad campaigns. You can leverage decades of expertise and experience working around Google’s restrictions and make sure you stay competitive.


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