Small businesses depend on cheap advertising. From word of mouth to social media, cannabis dispensaries all over Oregon use Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to show their products and interact with customers and patients.
Unfortunately, Instagram won't stop deleting their accounts.
It's become a routine hassle for Oregon's legal cannabis industry. They wake up one morning to find the following they've been building for months has been destroyed and they'll never get much of an answer why.
It's happened to Stephen Gold, co-founder of the Daily Leaf. Lunchbox Alchemy, a cannabis processor out of Bend, has been deleted twice. It's happened three times to Green Goddess, a westside Portland dispensary. Green Front lost both the business's and the owner's personal accounts.
In each of these cases, closures were "explained" in an email, stating the accounts were flagged for terms of service or community guideline violations and suspended—effectively deleted, since the form offered to appeal the suspension has never been answered by Instagram.
"No one knows what we can or cannot do," Gold says.
And Instagram isn't in any hurry to explain. The company did not return seven emails, three phone calls and 15 social-media requests for comment.
Justin Baker, co-owner of TreeHouse Collective, is one of several dozen account holders affiliated with the cannabis industry who woke up to messages they'd been suspended in October. TreeHouse lost 6,000 followers, and Baker still hasn't received an explanation, which confuses him.
With Instagram refusing to explain itself, everyone is coming up with theories of what gets them flagged and how to avoid it. It's a taste of the bad old days of Prohibition, with rumors and theories swirling as a now-legal industry tries to avoid getting busted down by our new tech overlords while businesses hustle to cobble a living together.
TreeHouse Collective now won't show prices—rumored to be one of the reasons Instagram suspends accounts. Also, TreeHouse posts to its 1,400 followers only once a day instead of three to five times, opting to use Twitter or MassRoots, an Instagram-like platform for cannabis users, instead.
Andy Vashar, who helped found the Daily Leaf in hopes it could act as a buffer for cannabis companies to offer deals online, thinks it's the hashtags. He shows a screenshot of the search term "#OMMP" with a message stating every result is hidden because the community reported content that didn't meet Instagram's guidelines. Vashar suspects this might be the doing of anti-marijuana activists or competitors, but sighs dejectedly when adding there's no way for him or Gold to know unless Instagram answers. "Generally, dispensaries are pissed off," Gold says. "Some have a target on their back."
Five Zero Trees lost 11,000 followers when its account was first suspended, according to manager Sisco. It's had its account shut down twice since then, though Twitter and Facebook posts with the exact same content haven't been so much as flagged. The dispensary typically posts new strains, images of product and specials without pricing.
Zachary Dowd, who runs the Instagram account for Glisan Buds, hasn't yet had a problem. He says the account he runs and the Foster Buds stream regularly show images of flower, concentrates, edibles and topicals, along with sale pricing, to both recreational and medical users. Neither account has been taken down or received warnings.
Instagram's community guidelines do address these issues somewhat, as the guidelines state in part: "Offering sexual services, buying or selling illegal or prescription drugs (even if it's legal in your region), as well as promoting recreational drug use is also not allowed. Remember to always follow the law when offering to sell or buy regulated goods, including firearms, alcohol, and tobacco."
That suggests we'll have to wait for national legalization before Instagram recognizes cannabis businesses as legitimate. In the meantime, see everyone on MassRoots. TYLER HURST.