Medical cannabis dispensaries — and the patients they serve — are apparently no welcome on Facebook. While Google, Facebook, and Twitter have long prohibited cannabis businesses from advertising on their networks, Facebook has taken things a step further. Facebook, the world’s largest social network — with nearly 1.6 billion active monthly users and approximately 1 billion daily users — is now shutting down legal cannabis businesses.
Claiming dispensaries do not adhere to Facebook’s Community Terms and Standards, Facebook is aggressively targeting dispensaries and shutting them down with little warning. Patients and dispensaries are feeling shocked and betrayed.
Susan M., a patient from Oregon, believes their actions are unfair and discriminatory: “I feel like Facebook is discriminating against us,” says Susan. “I rely on my dispensary’s site to get up-to-date information and direct me towards relief for my symptoms. It seems ironic that a company like Facebook, which considers itself a progressive company, would shut down resources for sick patients.”
Another patient from California, Marjorie Bailey, shares her frustration with Facebook: “After I was diagnosed with cancer, my doctor put me on more than half a dozen medications, all of which caused me major side effects,” says Marjorie. “Through Facebook, I was able to connect with other cancer patients and at their suggestion, I decided to give medical cannabis a try. It’s been a God-send. Cannabis helps me more than the half a dozen drugs I was initially prescribed by my oncologist — and, without the toxicity and awful side effects.”
Susan and Marjorie’s stories are not unique. Cancer patients and others afflicted with ailments ranging from PTSD to glaucoma have turned to cannabis as a viable alternative to pharmacy drugs. Many find social media to be invaluable, enabling them to connect with like-minded peers and professionals with questions about medication and treatments.
Apparently, Facebook doesn’t share patients’ enthusiasm for using their platform for medical purposes — at least when it comes to legal cannabis. In response to questions about their decision to block cannabis dispensary pages, Facebook responds by deferring to their Community Standards page, which states:
“We prohibit any attempts by unauthorized dealers to purchase, sell, or trade prescription drugs, marijuana, or firearms. 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.”
While the Community Standards page clearly outlines prohibitions against unauthorized persons from selling, buying, or trading drugs and firearms, their decision to suddenly ban dispensaries from hosting pages appears inconsistent. Nothing in their Community Standards says anything about authorized persons engaging in these activities. More significant is the fact that the vast majority of dispensaries do not engage in the selling of medicine through their Facebook pages.
While Facebook’s true motivations for the ban remain unclear, what is clear is that it is a disservice to the tens of thousands of patients who rely on Facebook groups to stay updated on their preferred dispensary.
The cannabis ban isn’t the first time Facebook has been accused of being hypervigilant (and inconsistent) in the enforcement of their Community Standards. Previously, they raised the ire of users over their decision to remove photos of breast cancer survivors’ mastectomy tattoos, based on the claim that these images violated nudity prohibitions. After the widespread protest of thousands of users, Facebook reversed course. Many cannabis patients are hoping Facebook does the same for their cause.