Social Media and the Cannabis Industry
All over the United States cannabis dispensaries, delivery services and otherwise state-legal suppliers are being foiled through social media. Online platform giants such as Facebook, Facebook Inc. owned company Instagram and Google have strict anti-cannabis advertising policies. These policies are having a knock-on, detrimental effect on profits in the rapidly growing marijuana industry.
Some companies have complained about limited capabilities being placed in their accounts, others have been blocked or cancelled altogether. This limits a company’s ability to grow through local social outlets. In many cases, Nationwide companies will have a great deal of trouble reaching out to audiences that are suitable for their growth potential. Additionally, it increases the time and money needed to meet these goals.
While social media sites maintain an anti-CBD stance, a huge array of cannabis firms are at an advertising disadvantage. The Facebook advertising policy is very clear on forbidding drugs, paraphernalia or related imagery. Unfortunately for most cannabis suppliers, this still includes marijuana, hemp, and CBD products because current policy makes no differentiation between the three.
This means that Hemp farmers - although completely legal businesses after the Federal Farm Bill of 2018 - are unable to advertise their lawfully grown products on Facebook. Although this may sound like a small thing, Facebook has an average of 2.7 billion monthly users. With 7 million of those being advertisers, the banning of Hemp related content can have a direct impact on profits, reach and following.
The problem isn't just with advertising, either. All types of images featuring hemp, CBD and marijuana products or paraphernalia are instantly removed from social media sites. This has led to users reporting issues with their logos, branding, blogs, and even their products themselves. Any online content posted on their business pages are subject to an instant block from the sites. If the content makes it through the rigorous content policies on any given site: they can then be instantly reported by any other user on that site.
If reported, the account can face suspension or even deletion, which negates any following they may have amassed. Considering that the global digital advertising spend in 2019 is an estimated $333.25 billion, and that current trends are pointing to social media platforms as a growing source of marketing potential, it seems that the cannabis industry is missing out on vast opportunities for growth.
As an additional irritation to those earnestly trying to establish a social media following in the cannabis industry – the competition is fierce. Since Facebook and Instagram operate a tight ship with regards cannabis tolerance, it only takes a single report from a single user to have your post, content, or even your page, taken offline and suspended for several days or permanently. Since your competitors are also on these social media platforms, it has been speculated that they might take advantage of this fact and report your content no matter what it is. This takes your firm offline while competition thrives.
Although it sounds like paranoia, marketing and social media manager Dan Osterman insists that “It feels like a marketing tactic.” Dan has had six active accounts taken off Facebook and estimates he has lost around 4,000 followers. Dan works for Nice Guys Delivery, a cannabis delivery service in California – where his business operates with complete legality.
As one might expect, not everyone in the cannabis industry is prepared to take this kind of discrimination lightly. 7 Oklahoma based medical marijuana dispensers have sued Facebook directly, claiming $75,000 in damages for “economic harm”. The group is seeking that the social media giant be prevented from future suspension or blocking of their accounts for similar reasons. Since their motion was filed, another 6 dispensary owners have joined them in their legal battle.
Named in this interesting lawsuit are CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, and the firm itself. Initially started by Danna Malone of Ye Olde Apothecary Shoppe, Oklahoma, this lawsuit is the focus of attention for much of the medical marijuana industry. If successful, it may have an impact on social media policies regarding the legal use of cannabis in the future.