Justice

Facebook Is Waging a War on Weed

As the marijuana legalization movement continues to spread in the U.S. — reaching 23 states plus the District of Columbia — legal cannabis businesses have hit a number of roadblocks on social media. The latest platform to deny its services to the marijuana industry appears to be Facebook, which has deleted accounts of marijuana businesses in several legal states.

At least three dispensaries in New Jersey and a "handful of others across the country" have apparently had their accounts deleted recently, NJ.com reported. When they attempted to login to their Facebook accounts, they found this message:

"We remove any promotion or encouragement of drug use. Your page is currently not visible on Facebook. It looks like content on your page does not follow the Facebook Community Terms and Standards."

While these businesses themselves feel victimized by the social media network's anti-marijuana policy, it's the patients who rely on Facebook to communicate and stay informed that really suffer, New Jersey dispensary owner Alex Zaleski said. His dispensary's account was deleted by Facebook this week. It's unclear how the social media company is determining which accounts to block because a quick search of "medical marijuana dispensary" on the site still turns up some results.

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"A clear majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana, and that's especially true among young people," Tom Angell, Chairman of the Marijuana Majority, told ATTN:. "Facebook positions itself as a forward-thinking company that helps people connect, and there's no reason it should be doing the bidding of prohibitionists who hold antiquated views by shutting down pages for state-legal businesses."


ATTN: previously reported on how the popular photo sharing app, Instagram, has blocked certain accounts affiliated with the legal marijuana industry. Both cannabis businesses and prominent figures in the industry have seen their accounts effectively deleted without warning, and Instagram has declined to clarify its policy on the issue.

Advertising represents another roadblock for these businesses.

Google, Twitter, and Facebook all prohibit advertisements of marijuana companies. However, a Facebook spokesperson, Tim Rathschmidt, told The Huffington Post that the company doesn't have a problem with advertisements that advocate for the legalization; it's just the business aspect that causes a problem, conflicting with the social media site's policy against ads that "promote or facilitate the sale or consumption of illegal or recreational drugs."

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Therein lies the problem: almost half of the states in the U.S. have legalized marijuana in some form, but the site doesn't account for the differences in legality between states.

"The risk of attempting to allow ads promoting the drug in certain states or countries where it is legal is too high for us to consider at this time," Rathschmidt said.

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Facebook told ATTN: "[t]hese pages have been removed for violating our Community Standards, which outline what is and is not allowed on Facebook."

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