Facebook has become one of the most popular tools in the world for gathering information and connecting to like-minded groups or individuals. Unfortunately, Facebook has a history of actions and policies that negatively impact state-licensed cannabis businesses and marijuana policy reform advocates, even as the majority of U.S. states have legally regulated cannabis for medical or adult use through laws that continue to enjoy wide public support.
As the nation’s largest cannabis industry trade group, the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) has received numerous reports from our members about their advertising being rejected or – even worse – their pages being suspended despite the fact that they are in compliance with state laws. One of the greatest benefits of Facebook is the ability to target advertising by age and location. Cannabis businesses want to be able to use this platform to advertise like any other industry, but limit exposure to adults age 21 and over in states where cannabis is legal. Facebook policies run counter to that goal.
NCIA itself has also seen our ads and boosted posts rejected, even though we are merely promoting political and educational events such as our annual Lobby Days in Washington D.C. and our regional Quarterly Cannabis Caucuses.
We have attempted to address the issues faced by our organization and our membership with Facebook on several occasions and have not received a substantive response.
Recently, it was also discovered that Facebook’s search tools were censoring the results of marijuana-related searches, making it very difficult for anyone to find reliable information or legitimate groups involved in the issue. This block included popular marijuana policy news sources and even state government agencies tasked with regulating the cannabis industry and keeping the public informed on public policy issues surrounding marijuana in their states.
These actions hurt legal businesses, interfere with education and public safety, and limit civic engagement.
We urge Facebook to publicly commit to ensuring that the legal marijuana industry and advocacy community are not discriminated against on its platform, arbitrarily or otherwise. This includes not suspending marijuana-related pages and profiles without due process, fair warning, and evidence of wrongdoing; allowing ads from legal marijuana businesses and advocacy organizations; and making sure that Facebook users can search for marijuana-related terms without “shadow banning” or system interference.