If you follow a legal marijuana Facebook group or like Snoop Dogg’s pictures of weed on Instagram, prepare to say good-bye. A report that was focused on how much money the legal marijuana industry made in 2014 slipped the news that social media plans to ban a lot of marijuana-related digital media in 2015. To many, their reasons for doing so will appear so acutely boring that it makes them sound shocking at this juncture in the legal marijuana debate.
The past two years have been an experiment in seeing how much money legal marijuana can bring in. There have been plenty of reports about how profitable it is for tax collectors, but there is a new and unexpected twist to the legal marijuana saga that few saw coming.
Inc was one of the first to report about the exciting news that nationwide legal marijuana profits for 2014 were 74 percent higher than in 2013. ArcView Market Research published the report about the profits called the “State of Legal Marijuana Markets.” The document states that the total profits for legal marijuana sales for 2014 were estimated at $2.7 billion.
The 2015 legal marijuana report also talks about how cool the Department of Justice was being by allowing banks to take cash from marijuana-related businesses. But a few paragraphs later — there was a huge red flag about how social media like Instagram, Facebook, BuzzFeed, and Apple were going to start treating legal marijuana like the plague.
Quoted from the 2015 report released at the end of January, it states as follows.
“On the tech front, many marijuana businesses have been prevented from establishing a strong online presence because of interference from large tech providers. Apple, for one, disallows most marijuana-related apps in its App Store, and Facebook decided in 2015 to close accounts that primarily post marijuana-related content on its main site or its photo-sharing app, Instagram. This trend dramatically increases the relevance of dedicated cannabis social media and information providers. The biggest drawback for the industry is that cannabis remains illegal under federal law.”
Last year, there was a hint that this could happen to legal marijuana when the SF Gate reported that Facebook was forced to shut down the Cannabis Oil Success Stories group. Benzinga investigated the claim that social media would be banning legal marijuana-related content in 2015, and spoke with a lawyer associated with Facebook, Kaiser Wahab. Wahab said, “Facebook is doing it because they don’t know where the moral and legislative compass is.”
Because of the complicated nature of the ban on legal marijuana by federal law, Wahab says, “They don’t know if they’re going to get into trouble.” Wahab goes on to give a scenario where kids smoke up and post pictures of it, bad things happen, and then, “Apple and Instagram are necessarily going to be part of the evidentiary chain.”
Tech industry expert and analyst, Jeff Kagan, supports Wahab’s statement about social media needing to ban legal marijuana until the laws are changed across the board. Kagan says to Benzinga, “It is their responsibility… These are companies that provide these technologies that allow this kind of thing to happen. Whether they like it or not they play a role… Whether it’s a legal responsibility or whether it’s a moral responsibility or just a PR responsibility, they’re part of the mix and they have to be careful about their image.”
In other words, there might be a chance your account could be deleted for posting about legal marijuana activities in 2015. Beware!