Google is cracking down on cannabis distributing apps on its Play app store, whether they’re legal or not.
The tech giant is giving “weed facilitating” app developers 30 days to remove the cart feature from their interface or face being kicked off the Play store.
While the move isn’t meant to ban marijuana content from the platform completely—and follows in the footsteps of Apple’s App Store policy—it does come off as a harsh potential punishment for licensed cannabis dispensaries.
“These apps simply need to move the shopping cart flow outside of the app itself to be compliant with this new policy,” a company spokesperson told The Verge. “We’ve been in contact with many of the developers and are working with them to answer any technical questions and help them implement the changes without customer disruption.”
Marijuana legalization advocate Cristina Buccola, a New York-based attorney whose law firm focuses on the cannabis industry, told Observer it’s not shocking to see Google ridding its platform of weed transactions. This is especially true “given the sensitivity around banking when it comes to marijuana,” she explained.
Buccola says the decision is a step backwards for the cannabis industry, in which many small businesses rely on digital apps to educate and market to consumers legally. “It’s a shame because we should be working toward a holistic approach to legalizing cannabis, which includes utilizing online tools like Google’s app store.”
David Holland, the executive and legal director of Empire State NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), says Google’s announcement isn’t so much a statement of morality, but a choice not to be the electronic platform by which people can conduct commercial transactions to obtain cannabis, alcohol or tobacco.
“By removing the shopping cart feature, Google is removing some of the responsibility to monitor and ensure the imposition or collection of sales tax,” Holland said. This alleviates the potential burden of verifying that a Google user is in a legalized state and obtaining cannabis legally.
In turn, Buccola see this decision as a rallying cry for passing legislation to help legitimize the industry in these cases. “This is an opportunity for businesses who do want to be bullish about advocating for the e-commerce of legal marijuana,” Buccola concluded.