It’s not easy being a ground breaker in any industry, and that lesson is continuing to soak into to thousands of marijuana entrepreneurs all across the country as they seek to cash in on the legalization boom. A case in point — over the last few weeks hundreds of businesses in the legal marijuana industry have had their social media account closed down. Both Instagram and Apple have been aggressively deleting marijuana-related accounts for several months now.
According to Buzzfeed, Instagram has been deleting cannabis-related accounts for some time now. Apple’s App Store also started policing recreational marijuana content last year, and has deleted scores of accounts.
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Businessmen and legal experts are crying foul, saying it’s not fair that a digital marijuana business can lose access to its entire customer base because of an arbitrary decision by an overzealous social media firm. Of note, the social media PC police are closing down the accounts of cannabis dispensaries, hash oil extractors, and edible makers, and even those of individuals who post about marijuana or businesses that sells marijuana-related products.
When 25-year-old Shane Fairbrother signed in to Instagram one evening last week and discovered that his company’s account, @themedtainer, had been suspended, he was stunned. He had worked extremely hard to build his business over the last couple of years, and now his tens of thousands of followers were gone.
“I can understand kicking off certain people that aren’t following guidelines or posting things that cast the [cannabis] industry in a bad light, but we’ve always been aboveboard,” Fairbrother said.
Fairbrother started filing multiple appeals a day, but Instagram never responded. All he could do was ask himself unanswerable questions. “Shouldn’t there be some kind of more formal review board for shutting down accounts? Were his appeals even reaching a human being? Had competitors or haters flagged the account repeatedly until it got turned off?”
Marijuana entrepreneurs stuck in the middle
Experts say that differences in laws on medical and recreational marijuana from state to state have left social media companies with major problems in consistently enforcing rules about images and videos of marijuana-related activities in platforms that include user-generated content. The firms fear they could be held legally liable for users who break the law. Attorneys in the industry, however, note that although Federal law bars selling drug paraphernalia, there is an exemption for “any person authorized by local, State, or Federal law to manufacture, possess, or distribute such items.”