For months after it opened for medical marijuana sales, Cultivate used Instagram to inform patients of their novelties and introduce them to new products, from new flower varieties to pumpkin spice-infused dust. cannabis.
But last week, the Leicester dispensary saw its account erased from the Internet, with a spike in interest.
Francy Wade, spokeswoman for Cultivate, told Boston.com that Instagram had closed its page without notice on Tuesday, Nov. 20, the first day of its opening for the leisure sale.
"They deprived us of our communication," said Robert Lally, the company's chief operating officer, at a public meeting in Leicester earlier this week.
Cultivating was not the only one to be silenced.
As the Worcester Business Journal According to reports released on Wednesday, at least six Massachusetts marijuana dispensaries – including the first two licensed recreational drug stores, Cultivate and New England Access Treatment in Northampton – have had their accounts disabled for violating Use of the social media platform.
The Instagram community guidelines prohibit users from offering "illegal or prescribed drugs (even if they are legal in your area)" – as well as sexual services and firearms – on the platform.
Although legal for adults over the age of 21 in Massachusetts and nine other states, marijuana is still banned by the federal government in the United States and most other countries. As a result, Instagram spokeswoman Stephanie Noon said the company "does not allow content promoting the sale of marijuana independently of states or countries."
"Our policy prohibits any marijuana vendor, including dispensaries, from promoting their business by providing contact information such as phone numbers or addresses," Noon told Boston.com. "Because of the borderless nature of our respective communities, we try to apply our policies in the most coherent way possible."
Whether an account is deleted or not depends on the severity and the number of violations, according to Noon, who confirmed that the six companies mentioned in the Worcester Business Journal history had their accounts deleted for violating their "regulated goods" policy.
"We can warn someone for the first time that it is violating our community guidelines," she said. "If they continue, we can delete the account altogether."
Instagram allows advocacy and discussion around marijuana. And pot manufacturers can be present on the platform, provided they follow the rules.
"Clinics can promote the use and federal legalization of marijuana provided they do not promote the sale or provide contact information to their store," Noon said.
Facebook, which owns Instagram, has a similar ban and owns its own well-documented story of initializing the accounts of legal cannabis companies.
In its own regulated goods policy, the social media giant specifically prohibits individuals and retailers from using the platform for the purpose of selling marijuana. In the same way, the prohibition includes "the explicit mention of the product for sale", indicating its price or the contact details of the seller.
NETA, which declined to comment on Thursday, recently saw its Facebook account closed for reaching a certain threshold of violations, according to a Facebook spokesperson.
Cultivate and a number of other marijuana dispensaries for local medical purposes that are planning to enter the market for recreational uses always have Facebook pages. However, some – but certainly not all – have become dormant in recent months. The Leicester store, which regularly posted photos and promoted their products on Facebook, had not posted anything on their page since October 13th.
If Facebook seems to be applying its policy unevenly, it is because society has only recently begun to step up its drug law enforcement efforts, according to their spokesperson.
Generally, Facebook removes objectionable content after it has been reported by users or previously detected by artificial intelligence. Earlier this month, the company announced that it had begun developing this "proactive" technology to detect and remove more content that specifically violated its drug policy.
"Our technology is able to detect content that includes images of drugs and illustrates the intention to sell with information such as price, phone numbers or user names from other accounts of social networks, "said Kevin Martin, vice president of Facebook's US public policy. November 13 blog.
Martin's position was on the opioid epidemic and did not even mention marijuana, but that does not mean that their increased efforts do not apply to both. According to its spokesperson, Facebook hopes to better detect and eliminate marijuana content – dispensaries or other – that violate their policy on regulated products. The deployment also takes place on Instagram.
Meanwhile, clinic officials are eager to restore their accounts.
"We are working with Instagram to try to reactivate our account," Wade said Thursday.
Not only are they unable to market their products on two of the world's largest social media platforms, but Facebook and Instagram policies have also made it difficult to solve logistical problems. At Monday's public meeting on local traffic problems caused by the opening of Cultivate in Leicester, Lally said the loss of their accounts was hampering their ability to communicate with customers.
"Our Instagram has been closed," he lamented. "Our Facebook – we do not have Facebook."
NETA, which claims to have its initial Instagram account disabled at 3,400 subscribers, appears to have taken a lead and opened a new account last week. After being reached for this article, the company opened a private account on Thursday afternoon.