Marijuana, though legal to some degree in 23 states and the District of Columbia, remains a taboo topic for many Americans. A growing conflict between federal marijuana policy and new state laws being enacted throughout the union has made marijuana a staple of modern political discussion. Whether recreational, medical, or both, marijuana is a complicated issue not only within the industry, but for the companies that do business with the marijuana industry.
On Feb. 15, NBC News reported that Facebook has been shutting down pages of cannabis businesses around the country. Those cannabis business, however, are operating legally under the laws of their respective states. According to Facebook, that state-legal operation is not enough to save a business from Zuckerberg’s mighty axe.
While patients and business owners alike are crying foul on Facebook’s sudden and somewhat vague decision to shutter the very profitable social media opportunities these companies rely on, Facebook isn’t letting up. A Facebook spokesperson told NBC News that the pages were taken down for “violating [the site’s] Community Standards, which outline what is and is not allowed on Facebook.”
According to the “Regulated Goods” section of Facebook’s Community Standards, “Any attempts by unauthorized dealers to purchase, sell, or trade prescription drugs, marijuana, or firearms,” is prohibited. “If you post an offer to purchase or sell alcohol, tobacco, or adult products, we expect you to comply with all applicable laws and carefully consider the audience for that content. We do not allow you to use Facebook’s payment tools to sell or purchase regulated goods on our platform.”
In the case of dispensaries, the discrepancy lies in the act of using Facebook as an extension of your sales plan. “The thing people need to recognize is, if the Facebook side of your operation is an extension of [your] own website and it’s part of your selling strategy, that’s going to get you in trouble,” said attorney Kaiser Wahab, who has represented many clients in cases involving Facebook. “I think a lot of people when they first saw this happening, thought that Facebook is acting very obtuse, possibly motivated by some ideology,” he said, “There really is sort of a very basic legal concern there.”
Essentially, according to Wahab, Facebook is protecting its own interests in accordance with federal law. By shuttering marijuana related pages, Facebook is ensuring that they are distancing themselves from any relation to these businesses, just in case the federal government decides to get involved with state marijuana laws.
“The reality is the Department of Justice’s stance can change literally next year when we have a new president — easily,” Wahab said. Facebook is taking extreme caution, especially considering that a new president may not be as lax on state marijuana laws as President Obama’s administration has been. This uncertainty is the driving force behind Facebook’s sudden push to shutter the pages of marijuana business around the country, not some hidden anti-marijuana agenda amongst the Silicon Valley elite.