Handfuls of marijuana businesses — in Colorado and around the country — had their social media accounts shut down in the past month or so in what appears to be a coordinated effort spanning Facebook and Instagram. The Guardian
reports that it’s not just dispensaries — ancillary business owners are logging on to find cancellation notices too. Freelancer Josiah Hesse found marketing agencies, apparel companies and other startups in the industry that have been edged out of mainstream social media platforms, despite not actually selling any cannabis products themselves.
The relevant part of Facebook’s policy can be found under the “Regulated Goods” section of its community standards page
. Here's a screenshot of a portion of that page:
And this is how Instagram spells it out in their community guidelines:
Follow the law. Instagram is not a place to support or praise terrorism, organized crime, or hate groups. Offering sexual services, buying or selling firearms and illegal or prescription drugs (even if it's legal in your region) is not allowed. Remember to always follow the law when offering to sell or buy other regulated goods. Accounts promoting online gambling, online real money games of skill or online lotteries must get our prior written permission before using our products.
Hesse got no response from Instagram and only generic PR deflection from Facebook for his Guardian
Notable too, of course, is that there’s really no shortage of cannabis content on these platforms — A quick search for #weed will show you some of it. So there are no ready answers for why these businesses’ accounts are getting axed — or for why it's happening now.
It could be that social media platforms would just not rather mess with federal law kind of like the banking industry. Or, it could be other people within the industry flagging their competition so the sites will take them out. Or maybe it’s all a ploy by cannabis-specific social media sites that’ve sprung up in recent years — MassRoots
and Social High
, most successfully — to get the whole community to migrate over to their platforms.
Prominent brands like Leafly
and High Times magazine
, appear untouched by the recent razing.
Regardless of the “why,” it’s safe to say this is not good news for an industry that relies on social media to get its message out. Now, it seems, would be an unfortunate time to go back underground.