by Veronica Castillo
“Free speech is the bedrock of American democracy.” This is what Americans are told on whitehouse.gov’s, executive order, preventing online censorship. The government goes on to say and assure Americans that:
“Our Founding Fathers protected this sacred right with the First Amendment to the Constitution. The freedom to express and debate ideas is the foundation for all of our rights as a free people.
In a country that has long cherished the freedom of expression, we cannot allow a limited number of online platforms to handpick the speech that Americans may access and convey on the internet. This practice is fundamentally un-American and anti-democratic.”
Social Media Censorship and Cannabis/Hemp
The cannabis industry struggles with freedom of speech on social media. In the cannabis industry, there is no free speech, no marketing, no education, no pages/accounts that are safe on social media platforms. Because of the federal prohibition that the American government has hurt Americans with, social media platforms use this as a reason to keep the community oppressed.
Of course, Lobbyists pay people, corporations, and institutions to do things like this. Industries like big pharma don’t want the truth about cannabis to be released. The issue of censorship is something that people and businesses are fighting, and courts are trying to figure out. A google search focused on social media censorship lawsuits reveals the following headlines:
- Media Veteran Suing Facebook Over Cannabis Ban
- Lawsuit Argues That Feds’ Cannabis Ban Violates Our Constitutional Rights
- Facebook Hit by Landmark Censorship Lawsuit in Poland
- Facebook Is Finally Getting Sued for Its Anti-Weed Policies
- Lawsuit, Media Campaign Hit Facebook Over CBD, Hemp Ads
This is a short list. Censorship has been keeping courts busy, but to date, the platforms prevail because like the police, there are rules, policies, and amendments that keep them safe. For social media platforms, it’s the 1st amendment. The 1st Amendment does protect free speech to a certain extent, just not on social media. Freedom Forum Institute explains:
“The First Amendment protects individuals from government censorship. Social media platforms are private companies, and can censor what people post on their websites as they see fit.”
So what can the cannabis community do about this outside of filing lawsuits? Beat the system.
5 Social Media Tips for the Cannabis Industry to Avoid Jails and Restrictions
Doc Hollywood is a censorship genius and his groups prove it. Both focused and centered around cannabis, he has been able to grow these groups by the hundreds each week, resulting in member figures over 300K. The cannabis community faces the fear of pages being deleted and so, we chatted with Doc to get his insight and advice for the cannabis industry.
Here are 5 tips from Doc Hollywood that he used to grow his Facebook groups Cannaworld and Follow the Munchies:
- When posting about cannabis, post the strain name only with a gas emoji.
- No labels or logos captured in the image/video.
- Never promote the sale, for example, don’t say you just bought cannabis, just picked up cannabis, or encourage people to visit dispensaries or cannabis related websites.
- No hashtags whatsoever.
- When sharing, highlight and show off the cool photo you took vs. focusing on the product and where the product can be found.
Other Ways the Cannabis Industry Can Market Their Products and Service
Social media is important for all businesses but isn’t the only way. Businesses in cannabis can:
- Publish a blog with SEO content (written for search engines to pick up)
- Work with influencers
- Get your brand story told by a writer/publisher
Why published content? Because when shared on social media, it qualifies as an editorial and therefore, not promotional; but also because when people are searching for information, Bing and Google reign supreme.
It’s important to think about the content/images posted on social media. In cannabis, one flagged post could mean starting from scratch with building a following that likely took a lot of time and effort to build. Studying demographics also helps. For instance, Social Media Today, a social media news platform shows the following:
- Gen Z chose Instagram as the platform to follow brands.
- Baby boomers spend most of their time on YouTube and the Facebook Feed.
- Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen X chose YouTube as the platform they rely on when making purchase decisions.
One day soon, this will no longer be an issue because as always, the plant prevails!