Jar of Marijuana in a log photographed at the Healing Harvest Farms Medical Cannabis Farmers' Market in Laytonville, Mendocino County.
Google's new Play Store policy bans apps like Eaze and Weedmaps, which have sprung up in states that have legalised the recreational drug

Google has banned apps from its mobile Play Store that help people buy marijuana, despite the growing number of US states that have legalised the drug.

The move brings the internet giant’s treatment of marijuana into line with the way it addresses tobacco and alcohol. Though marijuana sales to adults are legal in certain states, such as California and Oregon, sales to minors are still restricted, posing a potential risk to Google.

The updated policy came as Google announced new rules for the Play Store to make it a “positive, safe environment for children and families”. The changes require app developers to disclose if they see children as part of their target audience, which carries extra responsibilities such as serving only appropriate types of advertising. 

The tighter drugs restriction bans apps that “facilitate the sale of marijuana or marijuana products”. Android apps from marijuana start-ups Eaze and Weedmaps both include ways for users to order the drug.

Google also listed examples of features it would no longer allow in marijuana apps, including in-app shopping carts to enable ordering, “assisting users in arranging pick-up or delivery”, and facilitating products containing THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

The company indicated that it had tailored the policy narrowly, and had no intention to throw marijuana-related apps off the platform entirely.

“These apps simply need to move the shopping cart flow outside of the app itself to be compliant with this new policy,” a Google spokesman said. “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.”

The policy brings Google into line with Apple’s App Store, which also bans the in-app sale of the drug.

Eaze said in a statement that the decision “is a disappointing development that only helps the illegal market thrive, but we are confident that Google, Apple and Facebook will eventually do the right thing and allow legal cannabis companies to do business on their platforms.”

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