Banned on Facebook: The Cannabis Censorship Crisis on Social Media

It’s 8:00 in the morning. You’re just starting to get into work mode, and like the rest of us, begin by checking social media notifications.

Only this time, you try logging into Instagram, when a new notification has popped up.

Your account has been disabled.

One day in late April, Larry Serbin logged into Facebook to find that the advertisement he had carefully built for his hemp fiber products company, Hemp Traders, had been denied. The advertising account associated with his business page of over 9,000 followers, had also vanished into thin air with little to no explanation from Facebook administrators. Serbin eventually discovered that his ad account had been booted for violating Facebook’s advertising policies, citing the promotion of illegal, prescription, or recreational drugs in his ad titled, “Saving the Forests – Saving the Planet.”

Across the board, social media platforms are censoring cannabis, & the more recently federally legalized cousin of cannabis: hemp.

The passage of the 2018 farm bill opened up an entirely new industry to the masses. Acres of hemp planted jumped 500% in 2019, with a total of over 500,000 acres planted, compared to just 78,000 the year before.

This increase in farming, has also led to a huge increase in other verticals of the industry – most notably; retail.

Retailers Struggling to Find Outlets to Sell Products

MPR News

In retail, we have two main business models: brick & mortar, and eCommerce, or a hybrid of the two. Each unique with it’s own benefits, challenges, & scalability.

With most traditional retail stores, business owners drive traffic by purchasing advertisements, whether thats on the radio, in a magazine, or the current trend: on Facebook.

Business owners has discovered that Facebook, however, doesn’t take kindly to cannabis or hemp on its platform. Most that attempt to advertise on Facebook are seeing their ad accounts disabled, and business pages banned.

Josh Castellini, a member of Hempire Builders Facebook group was emailed by a Facebook representative about boosting posts for his hemp companies’ business page. As soon as he boosted the post, his account was banned.

Josh tried reaching out to Facebook, even showing them screenshots of the email sent by the rep.

Facebook denied the request to re instate Castellini’s ad account.

For Josh, hemp isn’t his only business venture. After banning his ad account for posting a single “violation”, Josh was unable to post ads for any of his other businesses as well. According to his sales data, this cut his revenue almost in half.

For others like Josh, the most difficult aspect of running a hemp business is advertising their products. Without a way to tell the world about what they have to offer, it keeps businesses stagnated & unable to grow.

Entrepreneurs Developing New Ways to Advertise Cannabis

Entrepreneurs like Matt Price, have looked at the problem of social media censorship as a business opportunity. Platforms like MANTIS allow cannabis & hemp companies to advertise their products on hundreds of cannabis friendly websites.

Because of these strategic partnerships with websites like Leafly, Hightimes, & HGTV, some of the largest cannabis companies have been able to scale much more quickly due to having such a large audience reach.

Advertising & Ad Tech is currently an underserved market, & one with huge potential upsides. Platforms that begin to allow cannabis & hemp advertising will soon discover the money to be made in the legal green rush.

To inquire about marketing & advertising opportunities in the cannabis industry, please email us at hello@sapling.cc

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