TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) -The online world of cannabis hosts a universe of websites on which a buyer can track down cannabis in states where it has been legalized, but large social media companies like Facebook, sister company Instagram and Google-owned YouTube are cracking down on cannabis content, even in places where it has been legalized.
Last month, a cannabis-oriented company sued Facebook in federal court for rejecting its paid advertising. New York-based Cannaramic Media Inc. and founder Felicia Palmer sued the social media company after it rejected ads for a May 2019 online conference the company was hosting.
In 2018, YouTube "demonetized" several video channels run for years by pot-smoking "weedtubers" to make the platform more ad-friendly to big corporations.
Part of the problem is that in states where medical and recreational marijuana is allowed, the business of advertising pot is in a legal limbo between federal and state rules, a Washington law firm said.
Federally, the Controlled Substances Act forbids using the Internet to "deliver, distribute, or dispense a controlled substance." The act also says it's federally illegal to place an ad for a Schedule 1 drug in a newspaper or magazine -- although cannabis dispensary ads are commonly found in local periodicals.
The federal government seems to treat state-legal cannabis like local police treat jaywalking, an article by lawyers Chris Morley and John McKay said. Still, it's not advisable to "jaywalk in front of Officer Friendly ... and flip him off while doing it," they wrote.
Even though online and print media have defended themselves legally over the years from being punished for publishing explicit or illegal third-party content, federal agencies showed they were willing to step in last year when they shut down Dallas-based sex site Backpage.com.
Large social media companies appear to be taking the cautious route when it comes to cannabis, legal or illegal.
Facebook's ad policy specifically prohibits the advertising of " illegal, prescription or recreational drugs." The company did not respond to a request for comment. YouTube's rules say any video that features the "sale, use, or abuse of illegal drugs, regulated drugs or substances or other dangerous products is not suitable for advertising."
Palmer said her cannabis education company paid for online ads on Facebook targeting adults over age 25 only in states where medical or recreational cannabis is legal.
"Facebook and Instagram were a large chunk of our marketing plan," Palmer said.