The leading social media network at the moment, Facebook, isn’t quite Cannabis- friendly. Instagram, (also controlled by Facebook) has a similar attitude. They banned #weed from their site in 2013. It’s very obvious that cannabis and social media giants are not ‘friends’.
Social networks and even companies like Google and Apple are taking a hard stand on Cannabis. While others, such as Microsoft is easing up and contributing to the development of the medical marijuana industry.
Despite the legalization of Cannabis for medical use by many States in the US and countries around the world, social media networks seem to be confused… or lagging behind.
The Dos and Don’ts: Cannabis and Social Media
Socially you may be allowed to run a page, group or community about anything you please including cannabis. There are many pages and groups supporting Cannabis on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram. Communities like Greendorphin, use these platforms to build support and share our information. This is always subject to the platform’s mercy though and Facebook is known to delete Cannabis- related accounts without notice, even for organisations that have been on Facebook for years.
So what’s the problem them?
Well, it comes down to advertising and promoting these communities and businesses.
Let me first start by clarifying, I am not saying that they should allow all Cannabis- related advertising or even any at all. I agree with their policy,
“may not promote or facilitate the sale or consumption of illegal or recreational drugs, tobacco products, or drug or tobacco paraphernalia.”
I am a big believer of what I refer to as the Spanish approach to Cannabis. That system does not allow for advertising in the country of Cannabis- related businesses. I tend to believe that the Spanish Cannabis club system is the best way to grow and distribute Cannabis, if you haven’t heard about this I recommend you check it out.
Now the problem with cannabis and social media is NOT the agencies stance against the drug but rather with their application.
The drug policy is in fact protecting…
I am not necessary for direct advertising for Cannabis products on billboards or in public places.
I am not convinced that advertising for Cannabis businesses in public, the same way as alcohol is advertised may serve the community. Cannabis is a medicine and wellness product and it should be recommended by health and wellness professionals to everyone that can benefit from it and be able to advertise only on platforms that are able to serve ads to mature audiences only.
However, advertising the product itself or being able to boost a post about a social issue are two different things.
Blocking Important Information
The ‘drug policy’ that is meant to be keeping advertising and promotion away, may also keep lawyers from being able to do their job.
Legitimate news issues concerning Cannabis and social issues are censored out as well.
When law firms are trying to boost such articles on Facebook, their request is denied on the ground of ‘promoting illegal drugs’, you can read stories of specific cases here.
Before I go any further it’s best to discuss and understand why they have these strict rules. There are two sides to every story, right?
The ‘Real Deal’ About Cannabis & Social Media
Facebook has no easy job trying to comply with the Federal drug laws and prohibition while accommodating state laws as well.
They have limited resources of checking compliance and approving ads. Advertisers are flooding to Facebook creating a bit of a ‘growth pain’ trying to keep up.
So as a result, it is easier to ban everything than risk something slipping through regarding drug promotion
Their policy talks about recreational drugs and the most dangerous of those is alcohol ( in my opinion).
Interesting enough, alcohol CAN be advertised on Facebook with certain limitations:
“ads for alcohol must meet certain guidelines which include restrictions on age based on the targeted location’s laws on alcohol ads.”
So it is possible to use age and location- based filters to accommodate alcohol advertising.
But what about perhaps accommodating Cannabis advertising using the same technology, or something very similar?
Alcohol is known to be significantly more damaging and dangerous than Cannabis, so overall, the policy applied by Facebook and other social networks might be making a significant damage to society.
In short, they are playing the authority role over if Cannabis is allow paid exposure regardless of your state laws.
I understand that Cannabis is illegal in the US on Federal level which is probably a fair reason for Facebook to ban all cannabis related advertising despite if it’s legal status in each state. It’s a safer and easier to manage it without there being a slip.
New complications and levels of legalities will arise as the revolution gains full momentum. And with this movement, it will be interesting to see how Facebook will accommodate a whole country’s Cannabis laws when Uruguay and Canada go ahead with ‘recreational sales’.
Meanwhile, where you are faced with closed doors, you need to look for a window right? Well as the industry has been blocked from these major social networks it has given rise to Cannabis specific social media. This is genius because there is an obvious need to be met and why not create a platform of its own.
Cannabis- Friendly Social Networks
Due to what we discussed above, and to the fact that most people are private about their Cannabis use, some people are turning to Cannabis specific social media.
The premier social networking app in the marijuana space is MassRoots.
It is an Instagram like a social network built in Denver, Colorado for Cannabis users.
At the time I am writing this post, the site has nearly a million users and has raised more than US$ 5 Million in capital since 2013.
So it seems that MassRoots could be the platform that Cannabis users has been waiting for.
A platform where Cannabis related information can be shared and patients can be part of a like-minded community.
The idea sounds good, and I hope that it will work out. It was a journey for Dan Hunt, the COO of MassRoots to even get the app into the App store.
They had to get 10,000 of their initial users to email Apple. They also sent a letter directly to Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO with 50 Cannabis organisations signing off on it.
It all worked and MassRoots started to focus on making the product better and growing the community.
“We want to have the most powerful users community around. We want to be the place people go for a sense of connection around cannabis.” Dan shared with GanjaGazette in September 2015.
The network should work out business wise because if the tech companies, controlling Social Media networks such as Facebook won’t let businesses advertise on Cannabis related topics, there is then a large demand for advertising space, for the Cannabis industry, being unmet.
The question right now is if this much-needed advertising revenue can come to MassRoots quick enough.
It didn’t start to generate advertising revenue until 2015 and cracks may have started to show for example, in The 2015 annual report indicated a US$ 8.47 million loss and only US$ 214,000 in revenues.
This report alone is not a major cause for concern, however, the company also faced challenges with its application to list on the NASDAQ.
Their application was rejected in August 2015 as well as in April 2016.
On top of that, more bad news came about the social network a few days ago, when they defaulted on US$ 966,000 credit due to their creditors.
This seems to be a difficult time for MassRoots and we can only hope that they can resolve their challenges soon.
MassRoots is not the only Cannabis- friendly social app though. There are some others, most notably High There.
High There is a bit different, focusing on ‘hooking up’ with individuals that are also interested in Cannabis. It is a bit like Tinder, but Cannabis based. If that is your thing, make sure you check it out.
All Hopes Up
Social networks seem to be here to stay and hopefully it is only a matter of time that they find the best approach to Cannabis users and Cannabis- related companies.
The best way, that is not only serving them, but also the entire community.