So, Facebook and cannabis have an awkward relationship. There aren’t any standard rules with Facebook, so no one knows what to expect day by day. They do have a policy that Facebook ads can’t promote the use or sale of illegal, recreational, or prescription drugs. This includes pictures of medical or recreational cannabis even in states where the plant is legal.
Yet, it allows companies related to cannabis to promote their specific businesses. The next thing you know, its censoring journalism associated with cannabis.The discrepancies are instigating some bitter feelings towards the social media giant.
An article in Forbes magazine described the situation well. “The logic that a story about cannabis or scientific studies on cannabis-related medicine is promoting cannabis is completely ridiculous. A story about war doesn’t promote war nor does a story about wine entice readers to get drunk.”
There is no question that the cannabis industry is growing at an exponential rate. It’s generating approximately $10 billion in sales annually. As more states approve medical cannabis and pass laws for adult-use, those posed to take action will reap the benefits.
Advertising for cannabis brands, marketing agencies, and cannabis dispensaries is particularly difficult. Since major advertising space like Google and Facebook don’t allow the promotion of drugs or anything related to them on their sites, businesses in the cannabis marketplace rely on newsletters, print media, blogs, and online media to promote their products.
Aaron Smith, the executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association says, “You would think that Facebook and some of these online platforms are the ideal platforms for these products because you can target only the legal states, target only people over 21. We would gladly follow those guidelines.”
Dispensaries are probably having the hardest time with social media. Medicine Man, the largest Denver-based dispensary has had their social media accounts shut down. Marketing agencies in the cannabis industry report that their clients’ pages are often shut down with no notice.
In April of 2018, Facebook released community standards to help govern how businesses and individuals use the service, but it certainly didn’t provide the clarity that the organization promised. Some companies are circumventing the problem by focusing on developing a brand’s aesthetic and story while downplaying mentions of cannabis and pictures.
As more and more states enact laws and regulations legalizing cannabis, perhaps the relationship between Facebook and cannabis will change. Until then, its just awkward at best.