Cannabis Instagram Accounts are being Shutdown Despite Taking Precautions.
Cannabis has been awaiting acceptance for quite some time now. We have been seeing it take the center stage and become mainstream in America. The dollar sign attached to the cannabis industry is a heavy one that’s recently pushed the pendulum of progress swinging in favor of acceptance and normalization. Cannabis is legal either medical or recreational in over half the states in the U.S.A. Netflix is featuring shows and specials around cannabis, pot leafs are covering everything, and retailers are showing up in more and more areas. Despite these marks of change we’ve had to restart our Instagram presence with our new account @evergreenmarket, along with an increasing number of other companies in the cannabis realm. Progress is happening everywhere in the real world; so why is it that social media companies refuse to join the rest of us and instead continue marijuana prohibition online? Cannabis Instagram accounts are ready for fair play.
Navigating the Grey Area of State Legalization.
Ariel and the BMF team had no recourse for recovery, “getting your page deleted or suspended can cause irreparable damage or at best a ton of time and work to get back to where you were. Basic product marketing, like customer testimonials, become a huge risk. It feels like a lack of freedom of expression for something that is legal in our state. We are supposed to breaking down walls and stigmas against cannabis but these companies that are supposed to be platforms are preventing us from doing that.” I’m not trying to paint this as a clear black and white issue because it’s not, especially looking at it from a business risk perspective of the platform. The flip-side is there is no grace given for an unintentional breach from a cannabis Instagram account other than repeated appeals which may or may not see a reply.
We’re on the Same Side.
Mitch Pfeifer, CEO of Respect my Region, put it this way “the regulations are here to prevent targeting underage people AND creating any imagery that would be appealing the young kids or encouraging use. This is not only a federally illegal drug but also a substance that’s just now coming into legal form in any capacity of a consumer good. Big platforms that have large shareholders and can be political victims won’t be quick to jump on board.”
Mitch and Respect my Region offer a unique perspective on the topic as a company that works within the industry plenty, but is not held to a 502 license since they are not a producer/processor or a retailer. RMR’s focus is on music and culture specifically the local hip hop scene and cannabis community. If you’ve been to any local industry events there’s a good chance you’ve seen Mitch or RMR COO Joey Brabo around. RMR is still restricted by the content they’re allowed to post even with no hint of sales attached. They’re still under the same target as any other cannabis Instagram accounts. Just last week their account was shutdown without warning after reaching 16k followers.
Why it seems Cannabis Instagram Accounts are being Targeted.
Mitch shared his reaction upon everything getting wiped away, “when our account was shut down I was pissed! I’m never scared of a challenge to bounce back from a loss but we’ve spent a LOT of time and advertising money through Instagram and it’s parent’s company Facebook. Our key staff has paid their bills off work using these platforms for the better half of the last decade. Amongst all the changes and tips that fade, we’ve been here spending hella time and money. We’ve followed the rules, and don’t profit from the sale of cannabis so it’s super ironic that we were shut down for cannabis content.” The issue is that posting cannabis content on Instagram is putting it into a realm which obviously doesn’t recognize state lines. There’s far from a level playing field as it stands, though, when outside of the cannabis industry there is drug use that goes without the same instant shutdown consequence. “It’s ironic as musicians and celebrities have used crazy drug imagery on social media without slaps on the wrist while advertising products when their whole appeal is built upon a lifestyle consisting of drug use.. They don’t want to enter the world of freedom of speech and censor musicians and influencers that post “controversial content” but they are definitely making a statement in the business world and promotion of sales.” It certainly feels like cannabis Instagram accounts are the ones being scrutinized without the same hesitancy.
The Consequences of an Account Shutdown.
The current way that these platforms are handling things are erasing immense amounts of time and work with the hasty click of a button. It’s something that’s reaching the industry from every angle. CEO of Top Shelf Marketing, Sean Mafi, has seen it happen over and over again with cannabis Instagram accounts for companies he consults for. “As cannabis is globally being more accepted and going mainstream, major platforms like Facebook and Instagram are still highly against it and constantly shutting down pages. And ads are completely forbidden. What is really frustrating is that they let you create an account and set up an online profile, just to shut you down without any explanation or warning! They just pull months, sometimes years, worth of content even though you have 100% followed the FB or IG guidelines, as well as state laws such as adding a warning blurb to every single post.” There’s no push back from the cannabis community about adhering to rules around protecting Instagram. There are reasonable restrictions like not posting prices, not using the platform to sell cannabis online, posting disclaimers on all pictures containing cannabis that clarifies that content is intended for ages 21+– the thing is, these are all things that any major cannabis account abides by and they’re still getting shut down without warning.
What their Current Terms say about IG’s Stance on Cannabis Normalization.
As the tide continues to shift in favor of cannabis on a national scale and federal legalization seems to draw closer and closer, how long before these social media giant’s stop targeting legal and compliant cannabis Instagram accounts? “What drives me even more crazy is that you can promote and market liquor, beer, and wine pretty much however you want, as long as you target a demographic over 21. And major tobacco companies set up marketing campaigns to go after a very young demographic and only get slapped on their hand when FB or IG finds out about it.” Sean speaks on the comparison of how IG treats other age restricted products, “bottom line is that the way they treat the cannabis industry is wrong and a change needs to happen asap. Our industry is one of the fastest growing markets in US and it provides jobs and brings in billions of dollars in tax money to the government. And as more and more companies go public and stock prices skyrocketing, it is only a question of time before it gets federally legal and we can finally start doing our jobs without any unnecessary challenges. It’s sad though that money is the reason cannabis will go legal and not the fact that this beautiful plant can and is helping people in so many ways.”
We’re waiting for Facebook and Instagram to catch up with the rest of the modern world and make the necessary adaptations regarding legal cannabis. The longer this blacklisting of cannabis Instagram accounts persists, the clearer it will make exactly where these platforms stand on normalization. When asked what a refusal to update the platforms terms regarding cannabis would mean BMF Washington’s Ariel stated, “it would reflect they are regressive and don’t take their role seriously as gatekeepers of information and public opinion. Prohibition is still damaging and destroying the lives of millions of people. Companies like Facebook and Instagram make public statements about fake news and view themselves as protectors of objectivity in regard to social justice. Failing to act on this is harmful and endorses the criminalization of cannabis. People who ignore the racial justice and social equity components of cannabis legalization tend to be people who have comfortable positions in society.”
What you can do to Help.
Cannabess is one of the cannabis industries largest influencers and someone who has been directly affected by multiple account shutdowns and appeals on her account which has reached 90k+ followers. She’s taken action by creating a petition for Instagram to update their terms regarding legal cannabis Instagram accounts. The petition has reached 17,000+ signatures to date in the month that it’s been up. The cannabis communities voice is loud! Click here to add your name to the petition!
On October 6th we will be joining Cannabess, BMF Washington, and lots of others in the cannabis community by boycotting Instagram and Facebook for the entire day. The objective is to show the platform just how big our presence is. We invite you to join us by refraining from logging in or using either app for the full day of October 6th. This is the opportunity to be about of the voice of legal cannabis and let them know we want to play by reasonable rules.
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