Imagine what it means to be deleted online: All of your friends and followers, gone…the images you shared, gone…the stories you told, all gone. My company’s Instagram account, Kiva Confections, has been shut down eight times. We’ve lost over 60,000 followers and countless hours of community building, original content and user feedback.
What type of content would get an account shut down eight times? Graphic nudity? Direct-sales to followers? Minors abusing drugs?
Here are a few examples of the content Kiva Confections shares on social media:
Kiva Confections is a six-year-old, California-based medical cannabis company that’s setting a new standard for the industry. Our company was born out of the need for a high quality, lab-tested, consistent product for sick patients. We have an established reputation in our industry for promoting safety and education. Our social media accounts have never shown people impaired from using cannabis, nor do we post prices, sell directly to patients, or promote the irresponsible or underage use of the cannabis plant.
So why are we, and others like us, being targeted?
Unfortunately, neither Instagram nor Facebook give explanations as to why an account has been deleted. Some in the industry believe that multiple companies have been deleted en masse in hashtag crackdowns, and that individual companies have been flagged by competitors, and/or hard-core cannabis prohibitionists. But, for all we know, it could be a bot, and not an actual person making the ultimate decision. So what is a cannabis company to do?
Diversify. Don’t put all your eggs into Instagram or Facebook’s basket. Just because these platforms won’t amplify your message doesn’t mean your message can’t be heard. Start a blog on your website, build your email list, post videos to YouTube and Vimeo, and open an account on the cannabis-friendly social platform MassRoots. One thing the cannabis industry and its pioneers have taught me is that giving up is not an option.
While there are alternatives out there, it is crucial that the industry and its advocates continue to place pressure on social media. The truth is,
Instagram’s policy is broken. It has allowed a negative stigma of cannabis to flourish and has choked the spread of education, hindering the evolution of this plant in the minds of lawmakers and medical professionals.
According to a recent Gallup poll, over 60 percent of Americans support cannabis legalization.
Cannabis legalization is a bi-partisan issue with the potential to truly unite our country. Chances are, those in leadership positions within Instagram and Facebook know someone with cancer, a child with epilepsy, or a senior with pain who uses cannabis to safely and effectively manage their condition. These patients’ quality of life has greatly improved; they are saving precious funds on pharmaceuticals, yet they are starving for education because of the DEA’s decades-long research obstruction.
By allowing the proliferation of stereotypical “stoner” media while throttling the release of educative content, Instagram is harming our population. How can I make such an outrageous claim? Because thousands of people die each year of opioid abuse. Because cannabis has demonstrated, time and time again, to be a safer alternative, and even an exit from more dangerous substances. When “weedporn” imagery abounds, both the plant and the industry suffer; prospective patients cease to explore the use of this medicine for themselves. Instagram is keeping their users in the dark.
Physicians, lawmakers and many reputable organizations have petitioned the DEA to change their outdated stance on cannabis. It is high time to move forward. I urge you to change your policy and allow upstanding companies like Kiva Confections to verify their accounts, have clear guidelines to remain in good standing and share educational content to a growing demographic of users who could benefit from this plant. Their very lives depend on it.