Anyone who has tried to run a cannabis-related business on Instagram or its parent-site Facebook anytime over the past five years can attest to the draconian and downright ignorant way that the social media monopoly treats the plant and those connected to it.
You don’t even have to be selling or even promoting actual cannabis to feel their wrath as news agencies, clothing companies, and even California’s governing regulatory agency the Bureau of Cannabis Control have all gotten ghosted by the platforms in the past simply for having a name or a caption or any shred of connection to weed.
Companies and individuals spend hours each week providing free content to these applications only to have their accounts deleted without warning and usually with little or no recourse to get them back.
In recent years Facebook has throttled back all traffic on non-paid advertising on its platform from business pages. Instead, they bombard you with offers to pay-to-play whereby you can give them a chunk of money and hope that your message will reach all of the audience members who voluntarily followed you to begin with.
As filthy a form of late-stage capitalism as that is, they don’t even make that an option if they catch the slightest whiff of kush coming off of your web presence.
From Patchouli Oil to PeliNails, Facebook has become a barren wasteland for advertisers of counterculture products, particularly those that pertain to pot.
Instagram functions in much the same way, with paid advertising options available for vanilla products and services, but as soon as you try to spice it up a bit, or skirt their cashcow scheme, they drop the ban hammer fast and hard.
Even if they do not delete your account outright, which they do to canna-businesses every single day, they have ways of “shadowbanning” you and your account so that you simply do not show up in your followers’ feeds or in public searches. They will even shadowban certain hashtags so that if you unwarily use one, you can find yourself ghosted by the system as your engagement and follower count plummet.
Certainly we can understand some rules and regulations about what can and cannot be sold on these popular platforms but in case you haven’t noticed Mr. Zuckerberg, cannabis is legal medicinally in 33 states plus D.C. and recreationally in 10, with New Mexico advancing legislation in their quest to become # 11 just today.
Not only is cannabis legal in a vast majority of the U.S., but it is possibly the most heavily regulated industry we can think of.
Facebook wonders, if they allow weed ads, how will they keep them from reaching underage users of the app? How, they ask, will they keep people under the age of 21 from stumbling across a cannabis ad?
Well, for one thing, states like California have very strict guidelines as to what your cannabis ads can look like in any format, and anything that looks like it would appeal to kids is expressly prohibited. It costs a legal cannabis company tens, or hundreds, of thousands of dollars to get into the industry, do you really think they will risk all that to try to convince a teenager on the internet to buy an 8th of bud?
Secondly… HOW DO YOU KEEP THEM FROM SEEING ALCOHOL ADS? Do that.
The fact that these questions are being asked at all by the powers that be at Facebook are equal parts frustrating but encouraging as they were revealed as part of a leaked internal policy discussion at Facebook corporate over their handling of “regulated goods” which legal cannabis has become in more and more corners of the globe.
According to the leak, FB officials were quoted as saying, “Our policies at the moment do not allow for the sale of marijuana on the platform. We want to consider whether we can loosen this restriction, especially in relation to medical marijuana, legal marijuana and brick and mortar stores.”
Apparently the behemoth corp is considering allowing legal cannabis companies to advertise products and even process on their own pages and feeds, but will still prohibit such activity in the “Marketplace” section of the site and in the pay-to-play advertising options.
Regardless of these caveats, the move would mark a long-overdue about face on the subject from Facebook and hopefully the looser rules would carry over to Instagram as well.
The fact of the matter is, while both Facebook and Instagram can be awesome tools to reach your audience and even to drive sales for your business, they are a high risk basket to put all of your marketing eggs in. Your best bet is to build your own space online, and just use platforms like these to supplement your own growth.