Facebook has started taking down the pages of businesses that legally sell marijuana for medical purposes in New Jersey, according to local news site NJ.com. The state is one of 23 across the country where medical marijuana dispensaries are permitted by law.
Three dispensaries in New Jersey said their Facebook pages were seemingly deleted, as did a number of medical marijuana suppliers across the country, reports NJ.com. The Compassionate Sciences Alternative Treatment Center and the Breakwater Treatment and Wellness Center—both of which are located in New Jersey—found on Tuesday that Facebook had shut down their pages without warning. Instead, they were greeted with the following message:
We remove any promotion or encouragement of drug use.
Your page is currently not visible on Facebook. It looks like content on your page does not follow the Facebook Community Terms and Standards.
While Facebook does in fact bar illegal drug sales, its Community Standards page specifies that those rules exist “to prohibit any attempts by unauthorized dealers to purchase, sell, or trade prescription drugs, marijuana, or firearms.” Legal medical marijuana dispensaries do not fit this description, and Facebook only deleted the pages of select businesses—which begs the question of why the company targeted only those dispensaries.
Since the state limits what dispensaries can say on their websites, the social network is “incredibly important,” Michael Nelson, the general manager of the Compassionate Sciences Alternative Treatment Center, told NJ.com. “It allows us to post strain names which allows people to do research. It allows the communication between the patients about what is working.”
Twitter and Reddit, which until recently had fewer restrictions on content, have in turn been riddled with harassment and abuse issues. Facebook is known for dealing swiftly with inappropriate content on both its own platform and Instagram—often to the chagrin of its users, when it goes too far and bans even innocuous content, like breastfeeding photos.
This seems like another instance in which Facebook is taking itself too seriously. Medical marijuana, while sometimes abused, has proven to be an effective treatment for pain relief and the nausea induced by chemotherapy treatments. And with even recreational marijuana legalized in four states—a major talking point in the current election—it seems bizarre that Facebook would take issue with pages detailing its medical uses.
Update: We received the following comment from a Facebook spokesperson:
These pages have been removed for violating our Community Standards, which outline what is and is not allowed on Facebook. Here is a link to our standards: https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards