News and Best Practices

Cannabis and Social Media: A Rocky Relationship [Part 1]

August 16, 2016

For businesses to succeed in the 21st century, they must harness the power of social media. Even plumbers and farmers promote their businesses through social media. Cannabis businesses are no different. But the big three social media platforms, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, have made it difficult for the people who run businesses in our industry.

Hundreds of cannabis businesses have had their social media pages shuttered without notice, and some of them don’t even sell cannabis. How can you use social media for the benefit of your dispensary or rec store without being banned? This three-part series explores the status of the cannabis industry on social media today and what you can do to make sure that you don’t see your hard work on social media evaporate with the click of a button.

Social media policies

Knowing the rules is a good way to help generate content that won’t get your account banned. However, as we will see later, social media sites don’t always follow their own policies to the letter. Sometimes they’re more tyrannical than democratic in their practices. So, having a good sense of what is explicitly disallowed is a great place to start.


Twitter “prohibits the promotion of drugs and drug paraphernalia globally.” The popular microblogging website defines this as Illegal drugs, where “drugs” means “a substance sold to induce unnatural euphoria, unnatural highs or lows, psychoactive effects, or altered reality.” This umbrella policy logically includes cannabis.

Referring to the cannabis industry specifically, Twitter adds: “All accessories related to drug use, such as bongs, pipes, vaporizers and grinders” are unacceptable. Specifically, they mention dispensaries in this line: “Products and services furthering access to drugs, such as dispensary directories.” However, they do add that their policy does not “generally” prohibit the promotion of hemp products, drug-themed movies or clothing and drug information.


Facebook’s Advertising Guidelines state:

Ads must not promote the sale or use of the following:

Illegal, prescription, or recreational drugs;
Tobacco products and related paraphernalia;
Unsafe supplements, as determined by Facebook in its sole discretion;
Weapons, ammunition, or explosives; or
Adult products or services (except for ads for family planning and contraception).

In the community section it states: “We prohibit any attempts by private individuals to purchase, sell, or trade prescription drugs, marijuana, firearms or ammunition. If you post an offer to purchase or sell alcohol, tobacco, or adult products, we expect you to comply with all applicable laws and carefully consider the audience for that content. We do not allow you to use Facebook’s payment tools to sell or purchase regulated goods on our platform.”


Although Instagram is owned by Facebook, its policies are slightly different. It is important to know how the policies deviate from one another so you can do your best to protect yourself against being shut down. Here is the key section of its policies regarding the cannabis industry:

“Instagram is not a place to support or praise terrorism, organized crime, or hate groups. Offering sexual services, buying or selling firearms and illegal or prescription drugs (even if it’s legal in your region) is also not allowed. Remember to always follow the law when offering to sell or buy other regulated goods. Accounts promoting online gambling, online real money games of skill or online lotteries must get our prior written permission before using any of our products.”

The key phrase here is: “illegal or prescription drugs (even if it’s legal in your region) is also not allowed.”

Now that you know what some of the leading social media sites say you can and can’t do, see next week’s issue to learn how consistently they interpret and enforce those policies.

By Loren Mayshark
Dispensary Management Today articles are for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal guidance or advice on dispensary operations. You should contact an attorney or a qualified cannabis consultant for specific compliance and dispensary/retailing advice.
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