YouTube Expands Monetization For Videos On Recreational Drugs

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Illustration for article titled Even YouTube Is Chilling Out on Weed

Photo: Robyn Beck (Getty Images)

On the same day that Governor Andrew Cuomo fully legalized recreational weed use across New York, YouTube quietly lifted a few of its own restrictions regarding the drug, too.

In a Wednesday update posted to the company’s ad-friendly content guidelines, YouTube announced it would be easing up on the monetization restrictions for certain kinds of content dealing with “recreational drugs and drug-related content,” among other topics.

Youtube’s been a historically unfriendly place for cannabis-related content, with some creators in the space finding channels suspended or demonetized, often without warning starting in late 2018. While YouTube’s eased up on some of its restrictions since then, there’s still a fine–and seemingly arbitrary—line these creators have to walk.

The update clears some of that up: but the specifics are still a bit fuzzy: starting in April, YouTube says, creators in the YouTube Partner Program can start earning ad revenue from content that “focuses on the purchase, fabrication, or distribution of drugs” in an educational or “non-glorified” way.

In past iterations of YouTube’s monetization specs, these same creators were told that they could turn on monetization for their channel, but it was ultimately up to brands if they wanted to “opt-in” to showing their product next to content on, say, marijuana farms or medicinal cannabis use. Now, according to these new guidelines, it looks like they’ll be running ads from all advertisers by default.

That said, YouTube’s still keeping the bulk of its restrictions in place, particularly when it comes to content that’s less-than-educational. In particular, creators making clips “showing or discussing abuse, buying, making, selling, or finding of drugs or drug paraphernalia in a graphic and detailed way,” aren’t allowed to monetize, and that includes videos that focus on the recreational drug industry from a DIY perspective. So a video breaking down the business of marijuana farming might be monetizable, but a video breaking down how you can start your own marijuana farm most likely isn’t.

Also off the table are “how-to” guides on using any sort of drug, like “how to find a dealer or best places to get high,” which, frankly, might be for the best.



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