Who knew Twitter, Facebook and MySpace were gateway drugs? It started off as something social, but now some California medical marijuana dispensaries are using the popular social networks to update their clientele, and anyone else who's interested, on what they have to offer.
"BB Kush, NY Soma, SD Strom, Forrest G, Green C, Baby Crunch, Spy Diesel, buy 1/4 get gram free. Baked goods, Grams, Joints avail." reads the Twitter stream for Artists Collective, a Hollywood based dispensary. Artists Collective also has Facebook and Myspace pages touting their free delivery service, as do other medical marijuana dispensaries, like San Francisco's Green Cross. In California, it's legal to cultivate and dispense marijuana for medical purposes provided both grower and buyer adhere to state regulations. But is it legal to advertise those products and services that are illegal in most other states (and countries) on the Internet?
Facebook seems to think not. Senior Communications Manager Barry Schnitt issued the following statement: "We do not allow people to promote illegal activities on Facebook. Section 3.4 of the SRR states: You will not use Facebook to do anything unlawful, misleading, malicious, or discriminatory," also telling AllFacebook the site will aid in criminal prosecutions of those who abuse the site's policy. Facebook pledged to disband any groups caught soliciting pot, but Artists Collective's Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace pages are still up, as are pages for other dispensaries.
The question is, whose laws do social networks have to follow? The Web may seem borderless, but as companies like Google and Yahoo have found in China and, more recently, Twitter and Facebook found in Iran, virtual boundaries do exist. So what's a company like Facebook or Twitter to do? It will be interesting to see how Silicon Valley finesses this one, particularly because the companies are based in California where the dispensaries are considered legitimate enterprises (at least in the eyes of the law).
If nothing else comes of this chapter in the social media narrative, at least the sites--especially the not-so-profitable Twitter--can take heart that enterprising young business people view them as vehicles for commercial success. "Only in the last two weeks with a Twitter account has anybody started paying attention to us," Artists Collective director Dann Halem told Fox News. If that's not a ringing endorsement, we don't know what is.