Cannabis-related social media platforms are being shutdown on an ongoing basis, most recently The Emerald Cup and SC Laboratories.
By Joel Hersch
In the past 24 hours, two California cannabis organizations have had their Instagram accounts shutdown, seemingly for no reason other than posting content about marijuana policy, industry research, news and events.
The Emerald Cup, one of the nation’s largest B2B cannabis culture events held during the first week of December in Santa Rosa, and SC Labs, which scientifically tests cannabis products for pesticides and other levels of quality, both had their accounts shut off on Thursday, July 14—not for the first time.
The two companies had accumulated many thousands of followers and rely on their Instagram accounts to communicate with their audiences, market their brand and services, and share their values, just like any other business.
Ian Rice—one of the founders of SC Labs, which is headquartered in Santa Cruz, CA—says that this is the fourth time their Instagram account has been shutdown. The account they lost yesterday had 10K followers.
“There are multiple elements to how this has affected us as a business,” Rice tells Cannabis Club TV, which is partnered with both SC Labs and The Emerald Cup. “On a personal level, now I don’t have access to the five or six years of history documenting our process, our interactions with the community and the story of our company. That was something I was excited to create and present to the world, and not only am I missing those pictures, but all the communications as well.
He says that the longest they have maintained an Instagram account before having it shutdown is just shy of a year. Their previous account had 18K followers.
SC Labs’ role in the cannabis industry is primarily to establish safety standards for medical consumption, so most of the social media content they share is educational—not sales-oriented. “We focus on promoting cannabis education, scientific research, and marijuana policy,” Rice explains. “We’re not selling cannabis or conducting cannabis transactions on Instagram, we’re just talking about the issues, so this limitation on our freedom of speech feels like a really low blow.”
Each time SC Labs’ account is shutdown, Rice says he has filed an appeal to recover them, but none of them have received a response from Instagram.
“It’s really unfortunate,” he says. “We rely on the social media world like almost every business. We get contacted every day via those online channels and acquire business that way. It’s an incredibly important point of contact for our operation and it’s leading more [cannabis cultivators] to getting their medicine tested, and that’s better for everybody.”
The Emerald Cup’s Instagram account had 10K followers until yesterday, and 30K before that. Healing Harvest Farms, the cultivation business associated with The Emerald Cup, was also shutdown after working its way back up to 5K followers.
The Emerald Cup & Healing Harvest Farms Marketing Director Jordan Caballero, laments the shutdown and the erosion of the digital community they have worked time and time again to build.
“It’s tough to lose years of work and thousands of friends and followers,” he says. “We love our community and won’t let this stop us from sharing this positive movement.”
Tim Blake, the founder of The Emerald Cup & Healing Harvest Farms, suspects the unwarranted account shutdowns are indicative of a fear from the corporate establishment.
“They [companies such as Instagram and Facebook] are deleting major people in our industry left and right because they fear us,” Blake says. “We’re normal, everyday, middle class American people. They can’t ignore us anymore, and we will keep spreading the truth and positive message of cannabis.”
According to an article on Buzzfeed the main reason these tech giants are shutting down cannabis-related social media accounts is because they are concerned about being held liable for the content based on the federal government’s prohibition. So, in an effort to demonstrate that they are in no way enabling the sale of cannabis or promoting recreational use, organizations like Facebook, Google, Apple and Instagram sporadically censor a broad range users, some of whom are simply sharing information.
Instagram, at least in theory, is OK with people who enjoy recreational weed, as long as they don’t try to use the platform to sell it, according to another article in Buzzfeed published last year. However, content moderators tasked with stemming the tide of illegal or offensive photos posted to Instagram each day continue to remove marijuana-related accounts that do not fit into that category.