Facebook shut down numerous CBD brand pages in December, claiming they were selling prescription drugs, rather than natural supplements made from legal hemp.
Right before the holidays, Fort Collins, Colorado resident Joy Smith had attempted to log into her CBD products Facebook page for Joy Organics. However, she was surprised to find herself denied access. She contacted her daughter, Hannah Smith — the company’s social media brains — as a means of solving the problem.
However, Hannah found that the Facebook page was officially unpublished and flagged for “promoting the sale of prescription pharmaceuticals.”
Even though CBD supplements are legal, Facebook commonly mistreats representatives of the newly emerging hemp market. In fact, Kit O’Connell, editor in chief at the Ministry, is banned from using Facebook’s ad platform due to his hemp advocacy efforts.
After Facebook shut down CBD pages, representatives of Joy Organics forced the social media giant to change its tune.
We reached out to Hannah in hopes of finding out more about her experience and what social media platforms such as Facebook will do in order to prevent these false flaggings from happening in the future.
TAKING ACTION AFTER FACEBOOK SHUTS DOWN CBD PAGES
When it all began, Hannah Smith didn’t think too much of it. Her initial inclinations suggested it was all a mistake that Facebook would easily fix through an appeal. Even when Facebook denied their appeal, they remained optimistic.
“Both me and my brother figured we’d just wait it out,” Smith explains.
“We just sent some emails and assumed they’d get on it. We figured they were dealing with a lot since it was the holidays, so, we didn’t think too much of it.”
However, Smith was soon met with a harsh reality: Facebook deliberately took down the page, claiming that it was encouraging prescription medication sales. Hemp-derived CBD oil is widely available over-the-counter as a nutritional supplement, both online and in many brick-and-mortar stores. After learning of Facebook’s real motivations, Smith took action.
“I created a petition as soon as I found out other CBD companies were going through the same thing,” she proclaims. “I thought it would be advantageous for us and the industry as a whole if I made the petition about more than just our Facebook.”
After sharing the petition with other hemp-derived CBD pages which Facebook had shut down, Smith was able to obtain 4,500 signatures. “Everyone was really excited to be doing something. To be taking action.”
FACEBOOK SHUTS DOWN CBD PAGES DURING HOLIDAY SEASON
This shut down had affected about three dozen hemp-derived CBD Facebook pages, both within the United States and across seas in the United Kingdom.
As mentioned, this happened just before the holiday season. Though most of Joy Organics sales are made on-site rather than online, there are CBD companies out there who sell most of their products over the internet. Social media plays a key role in online marketing. Facebook shutting down CBD pages during such a vital period of time could have severely affected sales.
While shutting down CBD pages was an extreme move, Facebook and other social media services routinely block hemp and CBD brands from their advertising platforms.
Still, that isn’t to say the shut down didn’t have an impact on Joy Organics. Though their sales remained fine, they weren’t able to connect with their community. As Smith puts it, “it more hurt us in our ability to build credibility.”
Despite restoring their pages, Facebook hasn’t given a satisfactory explanation as to why these shutdowns occurred.
DID FACEBOOK SHUT DOWN CBD PAGES OVER FDA MEMO?
“Now, this is all speculation,” Smith begins.
“But there’s something about this that just doesn’t feel right for me. CBD is — in Facebook’s guidelines — you can’t buy ads on Facebook if you’re selling it. So, they’re aware of what CBD is. There are restrictions for CBD and restrictions for marijuana. So, I’m pretty sure they know the difference between the two.”
With that in mind, Smith finds one aspect of this whole scenario to be truly strange. This all happened right after the Farm Bill went through. During the initial days after hemp was fully legalized, searches for CBD skyrocketed.
“After the farm bill went through, there were so many new people looking for CBD resources,” Smith stresses. “The fact that this happened after the Farm Bill was signed is suspicious to me because it coincides with a huge spark of interest in the CBD industry and CBD products.”
Interestingly, Smith notes that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a statement shortly after the Farm Bill went through claiming CBD is illegal in food products. Some hemp advocates speculate Facebook saw that statement and decided to shutdown CBD pages. Still, Smith doesn’t believe this is the true root of the problem which occurred, especially after Facebook’s history of cracking down on hemp and CBD brands.
We’ll have more coverage of the FDA memo and what it means for CBD in an upcoming article.
WE CAN EXPECT MORE MISUNDERSTANDINGS ABOUT HEMP
It should be expected that problems will continue to come about when it comes to the hemp and CBD industry. The unfortunate truth is the public still has trouble separating hemp from psychoactive cannabis (“marijuana”). Many people are still learning about the benefits of CBD.
According to Chavie Lieber, a senior reporter at Vox, “Facebook said it did not believe hemp or CBD companies violated any of these terms, but it did not further explain why its team had removed these pages in the first place.”
Though that may be true, it’s noteworthy to mention Smith had a very difficult time trying to resolve the issue. She could barely find a customer service email to contact.
Unfortunately, CBD and hemp brands will continue to face problems online until the stigma around the plant disappears.
“Facebook has a lot of places for people to go to prevent them from contacting customer service; forums and FAQs and stuff like that,” Smith explains.
Luckily, Joy Organics hasn’t seen any similar problems on other social media platforms.
At the end of the day, the hemp industry should expect more barriers. It’s going to take time for the public to understand what CBD and hemp truly are and the benefits they offer society.
Until then, Smith remains optimistic. “We hope when the laws change, the stigma will change.”