Facebook suspension prompts some legal pot shops to ask for guidance on navigating social media

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU)

Federal opposition to legalized marijuana has caused additional hurdles for businesses in Alaska.

Both Enlighten Alaska and Arctic Herbery say it was shortly before the July 4 holiday, when they realized their Facebook posts weren't getting any traction with an audience.

For businesses still navigating the relatively new marijuana industry across the state, the recent Facebook notification was a social media buzz kill.

[MAP: See where legal marijuana is sold around Alaska]

"We were just going onto our page to make a post about some of the happenings here at the shop, and I realized the page was completely disabled," said Leah Levinton, co-owner of Enlighten Alaska.

A quick Facebook search on Thursday shows only the business's location, and no other page seemingly marketed for the shop on the social media site.

"In 2017, it’s really important for any business to be involved and integrated into social media — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram," Levinton said.

Several Alaska cannabis businesses reported being suspended from the popular site, around the same time this month.

"As I saw the writing on the wall, I started pushing toward the other social medias that are out there. It wasn’t a real surprise, when it happened," Bryant Thorp, owner of Arctic Herbery, said.

Business owners said they currently have to adhere to strict guidelines, when it comes to advertising. They say it's frustrating that a site, with one billion users, would remove the content completely.

"It basically says it 'doesn’t follow your community standards,' and then it does say, 'We remove any promotion or encouragement of drug use,'" Levinton said.

One legal expert says that disclaimer is entirely up to Facebook to establish.

"The state regulators don’t own Facebook, and Facebook is a private business. They have business rights, just like any other business. So if they don’t want to promote the sale of marijuana, which is a scheduled 1 illegal drug under federal law, then they don’t have to," Anchorage based attorney Jana Weltzin said.

Weltzin said she submitted a packet of regulations for consideration by the state's marijuana control board this week, in order to help advise businesses on how to navigate social media.

"Right now, what we have doesn’t address social media," she said.

Weltzin said she has advised her clients to add the required advertisement warnings, along with a disclaimer notifying users the post are only intended for those over the age of 21, whenever engaging in social media activity.

For some Alaskans, this suspension is viewed as an opportunity to ask the state's marijuana control board for more clarification on how to engage clients with social media.

"We’re willing to follow the rules," Levinton said. "We just need to have more clarity on what they are."

According to Weltzin, regarding marijuana industries, in the eight states where recreational use has been legalized, there are no legal protections offered.

"The federal government has still reserved its right to enforce federal law in this area," she said.



 
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