If you’re in the cannabis industry, you’ve no doubt experienced the frustration of trying to work with Facebook and their advertising ban on cannabis. Facebook regularly deletes the company pages of cannabis dispensaries. And, of course, cannabis companies have been barred from purchasing advertising. All of this makes dispensary advertising difficult and tedious.
Well, thanks to our friends up north (Canada, eh?), who’ve formally legalized recreational cannabis, Facebook decided to lift their long-held Orwellian moratorium on all-things cannabis (or at least revise it a bit).
According to Facebook sources, the dispensary advertising ban was always about preventing users from selling dope. Which, for reasons that should be obvious, violates their terms of service. However, Facebook has regularly shut down legitimate dispensary pages and have been known to go on mini-rampages targeting specific geographic areas. (See: “Facebook Cannabis Crackdown in Alaska: Social Media Giant Shuts Down Marijuana Shops’ Business Pages”).
Apparently, Facebook had a come-to-Jesus moment, and decided to loosen their draconian restrictions on dispensary advertising:
Facebook spokeswoman Sarah Pollack told Forbes:
This is a change in our tactics when it comes to what is discoverable when using Facebook Search. Our Community Standards make it very clear that buying, selling or trading non-medical, pharmaceutical drugs, or marijuana is not allowed on Facebook.
People largely find this content that violates our policies by searching for it, so we have made it harder for people to find content that facilitates the sale of drugs on our site.
We also look to make content that does not violate our policies discoverable in Search. We use a combination of the latest technology in search ranking and our team of reviewers who work 24/7 to minimize the opportunity for illicit drug sales. We’re constantly auditing and improving this process in order to do better.
While this change may not solve every problem and challenge facing cannabis patients and recreational users and the companies that serve them, it is a dramatic improvement. Before Facebook implemented the changes, users couldn’t even search for cannabis-related companies that weren’t in the business of selling cannabis. Like non-profit advocacy organizations!
If you wanted to search for pro-pot advocates like Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), Americans for Safe Access (ASA), or the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), you couldn’t find them through search. Ironically, you couldn’t even find anti-pot groups like the disingenuously named Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM).
Keith Stroup, an attorney and founder of NORML, weighed in on the change:
Facebook’s policy change is reflecting the reality that marijuana is already legal in nine states, Washington D.C. and will be legal in Canada next week. I realize it’s hard for some of these companies to adjust to the new reality.
Facebook is experiencing what all institutions are going through — transitioning from when marijuana use was a crime to it being a legitimate enterprise. It isn’t reefer madness anymore.
The latest Gallup poll puts 65% — 2/3 of Americans — supporting fully legalizing marijuana, even though only 14% are current users. We are winning this issue because we have won the hearts of minds of nonusers. If people were using Facebook’s structure to sell pot, it’s understandable they tried to shut that down; but banning searches on the topic altogether was idiotic.
Dispensary Advertising: Cannabis Ads Are Still Banned on Facebook
Does this mean Facebook has gone full-tilt and jumped onto the Pineapple Express and will now also allow cannabis ads? Sadly, not.
Despite the fact that Facebook could easily restrict who cannabis companies market to (by state, age, and any other demographic they so desired), they’re not lifting the advertising ban, and there’s no word if that will change any time soon.
However, in the meantime, cannabis companies can at least find comfort in the fact that their cannabis business pages (probably) won’t get deleted. And, that folks are at least one small step for man, and one giant leap for mankind.