Will pot get you blocked on social media? The answer is at once “yes” and “no.” The guidelines change regularly—one day you can’t say anything about marijuana on any platform, and the next day you have a picture of Snoop Dogg lighting up on Instagram.
How do you know what to do and what not to do? It’s not easy.
“All social media websites have different guidelines as to what you can share relating to cannabis; Twitter has taken a more relaxed stance and Facebook is moderated the most,” explains Emily Wood, cannabis advisor for Honest Herb, a cannabis consultation company. To post about cannabis successfully, not only do you need to understand the specific guidelines of each channel, but also how those guidelines relate to posting.
For example, it might be appropriate to share a picture of yourself toking on Instagram, but you can’t advertise for cannabisor a cannabis-related product in any form. It’s a fine line, and it all starts with how social media views marijuana. And it’s not pretty.
The Social Media vs. Cannabis Debacle
“Social media has a long way to go in terms of separating cannabis from other illicit drugs,” says Kyle Porter, President of CMW Media, a PR agency for cannabis.
Cannabis is illegal federally and, for many social media platforms, that’s the end of the discussion. If it’s illegal, it can’t be talked about on social media without repercussions. For example, when Porter attempted to create a Facebook campaign for a hydroponicssupplier, which doesn’t touch the cannabis plant personally, Facebook denied the campaign. Worse yet, Porter’s personal access to social media advertising was permanently turned off without any warning or way to appeal the decision.
“When dealing with publically traded companies like Facebook, you’re going to have pushback against cannabis,” explains Todd Mitchem, co-founder of High There and current owner of Dacorum Strategies. “Their public status means that they have to deal with the federal government and the FCC, who still consider marijuana illegal. So, caution when interacting with marijuana businesses is appropriate.”
Cannabis-Specific Social Media
It’s for that reason that many cannabis-specific social media platforms have cropped up over recent years. On these niche networks, nothing about cannabis is taboo, and that can be very attractive. It’s why High There, one of the first marijuana social networks in the industry, grew to over 300,000 users in less than a year.
“It served a great need at the time, because a lot of the other social networks still had a ridiculous stigma attached,” says Mitchem. Unfortunately, High There and similar social networks serve only as a stopgap measure, and Mitchem believes as traditional social media relaxes its policies there’ll be less need for a niche marijuana market. “After all, there are no social media outlets specifically for people who drink beer, because it’s legal and no one even thinks about it.”
How Does Social Media Benefit Cannabis?
Despite all the struggles between social media and cannabis, there is some good news.
“Social media has the power to destigmatize cannabis consumption and educate the broader market, which lived through prohibition and ‘Just Say No,’” argues Peter Barsoom, Founder of 1906, a cannabis edibles company.
Emily Wood went on to say that “social media has given millions the voice and platform to speak out against cannabis prohibition and about how cannabis has changed their lives in a positive way. It’s given the cannabis industry and its supporters an opportunity to connect with one another and, more importantly, to be a strong force for change.”
This community is making a huge difference in terms of the marijuana narrative. “There are so many marijuana, hemp and CBD stories being told on social media. Stories of overcoming illnesses, fighting cancer, treating PTSD,” says Mitchem. “As more people share these stories, we’re changing the narrative around marijuana and we can move into a future where it’s widely accepted.”
For example, Kyle Porter remembers the time a patient shared her CBD story on Facebook and a mother in Brazil read it; that mother went on to sue the Brazilian government for access to the medication she needed for her child. “She won, effectively pushing the legalization of marijuana forward in Brazil, all because of a Facebook post on someone’s personal page.”
“From a political standpoint, social media is a powerful tool,” Porter notes. “From open and honest conversations to event and group awareness, the cannabis industry must still rely on the networks to reach grassroots influencers in order to push conversation about legalization and acceptance forward.”
If you’d like to be part of a force for good, you can share your personal cannabis story with DOPE Magazineon social media using the hashtag #End420Shame. It’s up to us to change the cannabis story.
What can change the tide of anti-cannabis social media policies?
Todd Mitchem believes that, beyond legalization nationwide, influencers—celebrities in particular—have the best chance of changing how social media views cannabis.There are many celebrities, including Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg, Whoopi Goldberg, Montel Williams and Wiz Khalifa, who have all started their own cannabis brands. As this trend continues, it will get harder and harder for social media companies to deny the right to promote cannabis.
“When mainstream social media platforms start to realize that potential revenue is being lost by not allowing cannabis advertisements and posting, they’ll eventually have to soften their stance,” Mitchem claims.