When Facebook Doesn’t “Like” Your Pot Shop Page…

Remember when news releases were the go-to method of publicizing events directly related to your business? These days when companies want to get the word out about corporate happenings, publish internal news, or inform their customers of specials or promotions, a faster and less cumbersome way to do it is on Facebook.

But if you’re in the pot business, you may want to try another platform.

Recently Facebook started shutting down the pages of legal marijuana businesses around the country, and Colorado’s cannabis retailers were captured in their net, along with legitimate medical dispensaries in other states.

While the targeted companies are properly licensed and compliant at the state and local level, it’s impossible for them to be federally compliant for one simple reason: cannabis is still illegal at the federal level. Facebook’s Community Standards preclude it from encouraging any kind of drug use, and a promotion or special on cannabis products advertised on the site can be interpreted as such.

In the Regulated Goods section of the Community Standards, it states that Facebook “prohibits any attempts by unauthorized dealers to purchase, sell, or trade prescription drugs, marijuana or firearms.”

It’s unclear why a business licensed by the state of Colorado and subject to its regulations could fall under the umbrella of “unauthorized dealers.”

Facebook hasn’t been particularly forthcoming about the decision, but issued a statement regarding it that read in part:

“In order to maintain a safe environment on Facebook, we have Community Standards that describe what is and is not allowed on the service,” the statement read. “Anyone can report content to us if they think it violates our standards. Our teams review these reports rapidly and will remove the content if there is a violation.”

Some of the biggest dispensary chains in Colorado had their pages deleted, including The Clinic, LivWell, Sweet Leaf, and The Green Solution. In certain cases when the dispensary appealed, some of the pages were reinstated without explanation.

A few business owners simply started over; they revamped the pages to make sure promotions or coupons that could be interpreted as advocating drug use didn’t appear on their site, thereby violating Facebook’s community standards. They lost the “likes” from the first round but simply encouraged their followers to re-click.

Last year, sales of legal marijuana rose 17 percent for a total annual intake of $5.4 billion. Current projections have 2016 on track to pull in $6.7 billion.

If you need legal help, don’t hesitate to contact me at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Business Attorney. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com.

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