Why Is Facebook Deleting Medical Marijuana Dispensaries’ Pages?

Facebook has deleted the pages of an unknown number of medical marijuana dispensaries, saying that they “violate community standards” even though medical marijuana is legal in 23 states, NJ Advance Media is reporting.

Dispensary owners, employees, and their patients in at least three states have tried to visit their medical marijuana dispensaries’ Facebook pages, only to find them deleted.

Alex Zaleski, founder of Breakwater Wellness and Treatment Center in Cranbury, New Jersey, said that the Facebook page of his dispensary was removed from Facebook on Tuesday with no notice or warning.

“Your page is currently not visible on Facebook. It looks like content on your page does not follow the Facebook Community Terms and Standards.”

Officially, Facebook’s rules prohibit pages that advocate or facilitate the sale or use of “illegal, prescription, or recreational drugs.” Medical and/or recreational marijuana is legal under state law in 23 states, although it remains illegal under federal law. The Obama administration has said that it will not devote law enforcement resources to interfering in states’ legal medical or recreational marijuana programs.

With Facebook deleting medical marijuana dispensaries’ pages, that has left some patients in the lurch. Peter Rosenfeld, a medical marijuana patient in New Jersey, relies on his favorite dispensary’s Facebook page to know what cannabis products are available on any given day, and to be able to talk to store employees, and other patients, about what strains and products are best for him.

“It seems high-handed to simply shut down important resources for sick patients without even saying why or giving organizations a way to ask for reconsideration. What better use of a social media than having sites where parents of sick children can ask questions about medication and treatments?”

Dispensary owner Zaleski feels the same way.

“[Facebook is doing] a great disservice to our patients who rely on us to keep them updated on what is going on. We are looking into the matter and hope to resolve it in the patients’ favor as soon as possible.”

So, why do medical marijuana dispensary owners and their patients rely on Facebook pages for information when the dispensary could just as easily use their own website? The problem is that some states, such as New Jersey, strictly limit what can and cannot be advertised on a dispensary’s website. That means no specific information about what strains (or other products) are available, and no pricing information.

As Michael Nelson, general manager of Compassionate Sciences in Bellmawr, New Jersey, explains as follows.

“[Facebook is] incredibly important because the state limits what we can do on our website. It allows us to post strain names which allows people to do research. It allows the communication between the patients about what is working.”

Making matters worse for some medical marijuana dispensary owners is the fact that their competition’s Facebook pages are seemingly allowed to remain up, even though they violate the same community standards that Facebook claims to be enforcing. For example, the Facebook page of Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair, New Jersey, remains up and running as of this writing.

The Facebook issue underscores the problems facing owners and managers of marijuana dispensaries as they try to conduct a legal business that is technically illegal under federal law. Pot dispensaries in Colorado, for example, have found themselves having to figure out what to do with mountains of cash that they can’t legally deposit in banks, according to NBC News.

Do you think Facebook is right to shut down the pages of medical marijuana dispensaries? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

[Image via Shutterstock/Atomazul]