The BLOG: Voices

Marketing medical marijuana got me banned on Facebook

Marijuana. It’s a hot topic when it comes to states across the country. Many states now allow for a medical and highly pharmaceutical approach to it. Others are discussing going “rec”. It’s a conversation that will continue to grow louder as we get closer to the elections.

Growing up, we were always taught how much trouble drugs can get you in.

The message was reinforced by everyone from my parents to our D.A.R.E. program.

After getting a big slap from Facebook last year, I wonder if perhaps I should have listened to them.

But this isn’t a story of drug use. It’s the story about a rapidly evolving industry and the implications of law and social media policy.

This is the story of how medical marijuana got us — The Silent Partner Marketing — in trouble with Facebook.

The Backstory

Within the past couple of years, our agency found itself doing a lot of work in the world of medical marijuana and CBD’s. There are now 25 states (plus D.C.) where medical marijuana is legal in some way, shape or form. There are conversations happening at the state and the federal level about expanding that and down the road expanding it to recreational use. This article isn’t about our personal beliefs on the legality of medicinal vs. recreational, just for the record. So in the comments…let’s try to not even go there.

We softly launched a series with one of our clients called CannaEd. The idea is that it’s a series of seminars — from cooking classes to networking among people with various disease states — focused on education and awareness. The long and short of it is that we want to make sure that, while staying within state regulations, we are serving up information about the legality, safety and overall program to those who qualify for it.

The Trouble

Shortly after launching the series, my team went to upload and market two videos from a recent event to Facebook. We oversee expenditures of hundreds of thousands of dollars a month for our clients on Facebook and Instagram dark posts and similar tactics, and we’ve uploaded and distributed thousands of videos without ever having a problem. Social media is a beautiful thing.

You can effectively serve up your video or messaging to a highly targeted demographic — for example, people who are 21-years-old and up who live in Connecticut who most likely suffer from (or have friends or family who suffer from) the various disease states. You can also choose to create a custom audience and only serve it up to the people who are already medical marijuana card holders doing business with you. Great stuff, right?

Well…Facebook wasn’t happy. Within seconds, they slapped the account we used with a ban on uploading videos.

The ban was reversed after about 90 days, but it raises an interesting conversation.

In states where medical marijuana is legal, should companies have the ability to share education and information in a targeted way? Keep in mind — we’re not talking about your standard practice of advertising or selling a product. We’re talking about helping to get information about a program (that generates a large amount of tax revenue, by the way) into the hands of people who can achieve true medical benefits from it.

Listen, I get why they are doing it. At the federal level, it’s still illegal. I’m sure that Facebook and Google are playing it safe to cover their own butts. But the rationale that they use in their argument is interesting. Google, for example, says they block advertising of anything that can get you high.

So, by definition, they should block ads for skydivers. Or running sneakers. Because that gives you a natural high. Or booze, for that matter, no?

Every state is talking about medical marijuana. Perhaps it’s time that Facebook and Google started being a part of that conversation.

What do you think?

Kyle Reyes is President and CEO of The Silent Partner Marketing. He’s also an acclaimed keynote speaker on entrepreneurship, leadership, marketing and social media. You can find him on Facebook, LinkedIn and Snapchat @dasilentpartner. Read his past blogs here.