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Oct 5, 2016 9:35 AM

Facebook and Marijuana: Controversial and Dubious Relationship

Despite marijuana legalization in Canada and some U.S. states, cannabis-related companies are constantly facing restrictions on their Facebook accounts. Why is Facebook changing its policy towards marijuana?

On one hand, Facebook tries to keep an unbiased position and avoid drug promotion by banning pictures of people smoking weed. In contrast, marijuana-related businesses sometimes are allowed to promote their products there, but weed-friendly articles may cause excessive attention of the Facebook team resulting in content censoring.

However, it is nonsense that a story about medical cannabis research or marijuana legalization urges people to consume weed. Neither a story about a disease makes people sick, nor a story about violence induces more violence. But Facebook is not officially clarifying its policy towards cannabis.

One reason for this is that this social media website does not have any written rules, so Facebook restrictions are based solely on the opinion of a group of people. However, it is hard to overestimate the influence of this website, so cannabis businesses and even weed-related social media communities like Mass Roots are creating Facebook accounts.

According to Isaac Dietrich, the co-founder and CEO of Mass Roots, although their website is a separate online community for weed-friendly people and companies, they also try to maintain presence on Facebook and host live events there. However, their Instagram page has been repeatedly suspended, and some of their Facebook videos have been deleted several times.

Meanwhile, Facebook has officially accepted the Weedmaps page, providing this website with a competitive advantage over other cannabis businesses. But this controversial policy of Facebook works in favor of Mass Roots, as dispensaries just opt for Mass Roots to promote their businesses after facing problems with Facebook.

How Marijuana Companies Bypass Advertising Restrictions
How Marijuana Companies Bypass Advertising Restrictions
Though marijuana is no longer a conversation stopper for public discussions, cannabis companies still have to jump over hurdles to draw the buyer's attention to their products.

Even companies that have never suffered from Facebook’s censorship cannot be sure that they will not face it one day. For instance, Kyle Sherman, the SEO of Flowhub, a point-of-sale software company for marijuana-related businesses, says that their company has not had any limitations of its Facebook content because they do not address marijuana directly, but it may happen in the future. Sherman thinks that Facebook bans only those companies that actively advertise cannabis sales.

However, this assumption does not work for all companies. CalCann Holdings, a company investing in real estate properties for medical marijuana businesses in California, was banned for cannabis-related content on its Facebook page, regardless of the fact that the company is not a marijuana operator and has no interest in cannabis business.

Though High Times is allowed to operate on Instagram and Facebook, its cannabis-related publications also meet different restrictions of the Facebook team. According to Larry Linietsky, the Chief Operating Officer of High Times, their marijuana articles shared on Facebook have been accessible only to people over 21, while similar news of other popular media does not have the same limitations. Thus, it is hard to say that Facebook’s policy is fair game. Nevertheless, Linietsky hopes that the Facebook members who also love weed will ease their pressure on marijuana and stop throwing sand in the wheels of legitimate cannabis businesses.