Facebook – it’s something we all wish we’d invented. But, while we’re not the brain behind the brawn, at least we can participate in the fun. And participate we do – according to CNN, Facebook has over 1.71 billion monthly active users. Just for the sake of comparison, that’s more than the population of China and America put together. So, yeah, it’s popular – it’s crowned homecoming king while Myspace and Friendster stew in chess club. This popularity makes it a vital place to advertise, to network, and to make connections that lead to sales. But, while Facebook’s well-liked, it’s a bit of a goody-two-shoes. In short, no marijuana allowed.
Cannabis Companies on Facebook
Of course, some pot content does exist on Facebook – some dispensaries successfully advertise and have for years. The reason they get away with it is because Facebook can’t stop us all – there’s not enough manpower to quash that much free speech. Still, they’re cracking down on what they can and this is leaving some entrepreneurs up a creek without a paddle (or a platform on which to convey their status).
For the pot shop owners, this is akin to a disappearing act – their Facebook pages are here one day and gone the next
Per Buzzfeed, the pattern in which Facebook pages are going dark is both inconsistent and hypocritical: they’re allowing some larger, mainstream companies to remain online while evicting smaller businesses. They’re also punishing companies trying to bring attention to themselves, through the use of social media campaigns and boosting of posts. Other pages have been shut down because business owners are manipulating the system. They’re doing this by reporting the pages of their competition – essentially running to Mark Zuckerberg to tattle. They risk shining the spotlight on themselves by doing this, so some don’t do it directly. They have a friend or family member flag their competition in hopes that the competing page will be removed while their page remains online.
Facebook’s removal tactics aren’t ideal for pot enthusiasts
or anyone who enjoys using the First Amendment, but don’t expect the ACLU to intervene: the terms of service are clearly laid out and they’re terms singing a very familiar song – as long as cannabis remains illegal on the federal level, expect Mary Jane’s status to be denied.
The Terms of Service, Explained
Facebook is very particular about promoting regulated goods. In plain language, they state, “Facebook prohibits any attempts by unauthorized dealers to purchase, sell, or trade prescription drugs, marijuana, or firearms.” Sure, one could argue that pot shops aren’t “unauthorized” dealers – in legal states, they’ve received Uncle Sam’s seal of approval. And medical marijuana, which is more legal than illegal, remains a Facebook faux pas. According to Herb magazine, Facebook isn’t limiting its ousting to dispensaries and cannabis sales – news outlets that have posted about things like the benefits of CBD are feeling the wrath too. This might come as a surprise from a company built by a man famous for wearing jeans and a hoodie, but Facebook probably has their reasons.
For the record, marijuana isn’t the only thing prohibited on this social media platform
Facebook offers a long list of prohibited content, including anything discriminatory, tobacco, unsafe supplements, ammunition, adult content, sensationalism, payday loans and cash advances, penny auctions, before and after images, and surveillance equipment. It doesn’t prohibit alcohol, however, causing pot proponents to raise their eyebrows. Alcohol does more damage than pot, at least if you believe in a little thing like science.
Facebook advertising is a very convenient way to market everything – it allows for very specified, targeted reach. And some cannabis companies have successfully submitted ads by changing the wording of those ads – they don’t mention pot, marijuana, cannabis or any words that may trigger deletion. When an ad is denied, Facebook tells the user that their ad didn’t meet the necessary guidelines. They usually site their policy, encourage a visit to the Help Center, and ask that the user contact Facebook with any other questions (though Facebook has, in the past, gained a reputation for not responding to people personally).
Social Media’s Influence on Legalization
A sadness to all of this is that social media is vital to the legalization movement. Weed’s been a trending topic keyed into states that have legalized both recreationally and medically. This kind of networking has been a great way to educate people on what cannabis is and what it’s not.
Education is instrumental in changing minds that lead to changing times.
But, as mentioned above, Facebook has its reasons. Some people suspect they’re afraid of racketeering charges from the Federal government, a legitimate concern considering who’s in office. This is also one of the reasons dispensaries largely deal in cash – banks want nothing to do with cannabis money as long as it’s illegal nationally. It doesn’t really matter why cannabis content is disappearing from Facebook; it only matters that it is. For businesses, this ends a major route of advertising, which cuts people off where it really hurts: monetarily. For the movement itself, this stops progress in its place:
Removing a news post about the benefits of CBD keeps people from learning about these benefits, and this keeps them from changing their minds.
If Facebook wants to remain anti-weed, the only thing people can do about it is go somewhere else. A social media network as widely used as Facebook – one that welcomes cannabis – is, of course, ideal. Since we missed the boat on inventing Facebook, here’s our chance to invent this platform instead.