The medical cannabis movement is getting some major help from one of the most well-known corporate names in the world: Google.
Michigan Compassion, a nonprofit organization that seeks to increase awareness of the health benefits of marijuana, has received a massive in-kind grant from the Internet search giant’s donation program, Google Grants.
The cannabis organization will receive $250,000 in annual credits for AdWords – Google’s main advertising offering for businesses – and other related services. The continue for the life of Michigan Compassion, meaning its value could easily soar into the tens of millions of dollars over time.
Aside from the dollar amount, the grant is very significant in other ways. For one, it signals the entrance of a major company into the medical marijuana debate, giving cannabis some additional legitimacy and clout. It also moves marijuana into the mainstream business world, opening the door for other major companies to dabble in cannabis – from a philanthropic, investment or product sense.
Perhaps most importantly, it shows that corporate attitudes towards cannabis are shifting: Google has traditionally blocked many marijuana-related businesses and organizations from using its AdWords service. The grant, therefore, signals that Google is becoming more accepting of cannabis. For now, it appears that Google still has strict rules against business-related MMJ advertising, as even the grant has strict parameters about the types of terms that can be used. However, if the company eventually eases up, it could completely change the medical marijuana advertising landscape, giving businesses a new way to reach consumers and threatening existing ad services like WeedMaps.
“This is huge, this is really huge,” said Heidi Parikh, executive director of Michigan Compassion. “For a corporation that has prohibited ads with marijuana or cannabis in them to utilize this service and accept our organization opens a bridge for everybody. At one point Google even had a lock on us because of the keywords we used on our website.”
The award letter even states that this is the first medical marijuana nonprofit to receive an AdWords grant from Google, Parikh said.
Michigan Compassion will use the grant to boost its presence on the Internet – ideally by moving its website and projects up high in search results – and further its overall outreach efforts.