Does Social Media Love or Hate the Cannabis Community?


To say that cannabis entrepreneurs face unique changes in the marketplace could be an understatement. (It definitely is an understatement.) But the truth is, until we fix federal prohibition cannabis businesses are going to subject to arbitrary decisions from major companies in the “legal” marketplace.

Btw, “legal” is not a meaningful term in this context.

If the name of your organization has letters that fit together like so (“c-a-n-n-a-b-i-s” or “m-a-r-i-j-u-a-n-a”) you might be a non-specific threat to the gentle sensibilities of this great nation, not to mention the minds and hearts of our innocent children.

For years, activists have battled the moral ethical codes of various social media platforms to advertise about political activities that support legalization including Facebook, Google, and Twitter. Sometimes our ads will go for weeks unnoticed. Sometimes they get shut down immediately. While there may  have been some base of reasoning behind this censorship five or ten years ago, with nearly 90% of the country in support of medical cannabis and a majority of states with some kind of legal cannabis, this really makes no sense. It’s a very unfriendly variable for social change agents in the middle of a campaign, or for entrepreneurs in the middle of a business launch.

Apparently, last week my good friends at MJToday Daily had a run-in with the mail service provider Mailchimp, when their content was flagged and shut down. Shea Gunther, a co-founder of my own advocacy alma mater, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, heads up that project, and pointed to the ridiculous nature of Mailchimp’s action in an interview last week with Forbes:

“As the marijuana industry continues to grow, the federal-state conflict in cannabis laws is causing marketing problems for companies within the industry. Marijuana businesses routinely have their Facebook ads rejected and their Instagram accounts shut down ― ostensibly for violating the services’ policies against promoting illicit drugs.

“But the marketing headaches affect even businesses that don’t deal directly with the drug. ‘We don’t do illegal stuff,’ said Gunther, whose newsletter features marijuana-related headlines from around the web. ‘It sounds like their system … is not tuned to handle marijuana content. Everything we do is in compliance.’

“Perhaps one of the most aggravating aspects of the industry’s social media challenges is the arbitrary nature of how such policies are enforced. It can be particularly frustrating for companies that spend resources on building up their social media followers, only to have their accounts shut down. Meanwhile, they watch their competitors continue to use the platforms with no consequences.”

Unfortunately, this happens over and over in the cannabis space will little consistency across companies, and I am afraid that it will continue to happen until we can see some significant national-level policy change.

How do we make national-level policy change happen? I am so glad you asked! The answer is GET INVOLVED. If you are a business, become a member of the National Cannabis Industry Association which is working in Washington, DC to repeal federal prohibition. If you are a student or have young people in your life, support Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

And of course, if you want to be informed of the latest political, technological, and other challenges for businesses in the cannabis industry, go to the International Cannabis Business Conference! Our next stop is paradise on December 1-3 in Kauai, Hawaii, followed by San Francisco in February, Berlin in April and Vancouver, BC, set for next June. Tickets are on sale now!

Photo courtesy of Blogtrepreneur via flikr