Apple’s App Store Says No To Guns But Yes To Weed

Apple’s definition of morality is on display this week with a couple of changes to its policies regarding App Store submissions. Apparently, Apple’s App Store is now okay with marijuana-themed applications, which were previously restricted, but it’s also now enforcing a policy requiring game developers to remove images of guns from their App Store screenshots.

The updated policies with regard to marijuana-related applications reflect the ongoing relaxing of U.S. laws around the drug’s prohibition.

For weeks now, a number of marijuana advocacy groups and mobile developers, including social networking app MassRoots, have been petitioning Apple to change its stance on banning drug-themed applications from the App Store. Over 10,000 of MassRoots users also emailed Apple asking them to change its position.

On Friday, MassRoots reported that its previously banned app has been allowed back in the store, but with a new requirement.

Going forward, the app has to perform a geolocation check that prevents users outside of authorized areas from accessing its network. Those permitted areas are the 23 U.S. states where marijuana use has been legalized.

“We’d like to thank the App Store for embracing the cannabis community and continuing to set an example as a socially-progressive institution,” said MassRoots team in on its company blog. “We are excited to begin a new chapter with Apple in which we can work together to affect meaningful societal change.” The company added, it has “a duty to show the world that cannabis consumption can be done in a safe and responsible manner in compliance with state laws and federal enforcement guidelines.”

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 11.07.54 AM

This policy reversal makes sense, given that a blanket ban of marijuana apps across the country is no longer necessary, given the changes to state laws that make the drug’s use legal whether for medicinal purposes, recreational use or both, as the case may be. And mobile apps can easily determine a person’s location in order to determine whether or not they should be able to access an app’s content.

Gun Policy Sees Better Enforcement

Meanwhile, another recent change to App Store policies impacts app developers whose games include gun violence. While these apps are still allowed in the App Store (when properly rated), those who submit their apps with screenshots that depict the guns being used are now being rejected.

This change was first noticed last month when a developer by the name of OrangePixel had updated its game Gunslugs 2. Apple at the time rejected the game by saying that a screenshot showed “violence against a human being.” The game had originally been released a few weeks prior to the update, using the same screenshots, so the rejection seemed to indicate a change in App Store policy.


However, it wasn’t until the blog PocketGamer investigated the matter further that it could be determined that this was becoming a more widespread change, rather than a one-off situation. Or, perhaps, more accurately, it wasn’t so much of a policy change as it was a decision on Apple’s part to properly enforce a policy that was already on the books.

That rule, points out Instapaper developer Marco Arment, has been there all along, stating:

3.6 Apps with App icons, screenshots, and previews that do not adhere to the 4+ age rating will be rejected

Clearly, apps that depict gun violence would not meet this particular guideline.

PocketGamer has now heard from a number of App Store developers who say they’ve been asked to change their screenshots – in some cases where the character wasn’t even holding a real gun. For instance, a developer called Team Chaos had to update a screenshot which showed a character holding an NES Zapper gun.

Some developers have responded by removing guns from screenshots while others are blurring them out.

Why do changes like this matter, you may ask? Well, Apple’s position as a major player in the mobile industry, and the creator of devices so many millions carry around with them all day, means it’s able to influence public opinion on topics like this. Where goes Apple’s moral stance, thereby goes the rest of the country, perhaps? These changes represent a more progressive view on U.S. drug policy, and a harsher stance on guns and violence.

In addition, Apple’s app marketplace is increasingly accessed by a number of younger users. Apple has been working to better cater to the needs of those kids and their parents, too, in part because of federal regulations around advertising to kids and collecting of personal information, but also because it holds itself responsible for providing a certain kind of experience – one that doesn’t allow for mature or violent content to be placed in front of children’s eyes.