After a months-long blackout, Facebook has opened its pages once again to cannabis and weed-related posts, pages and events.
Facebook’s unexpected move comes less than a week ahead of Canada’s historic legalization of recreational marijuana on October 17, 2018
“When searching ‘cannabis’ or ‘marijuana,’ Pages that have been verified for authenticity will now be included in search results,” Facebook spokeswoman Sarah Pollack told MarketWatch in an email statement.
Over the past year, Facebook had filtered out the two words, cannabis and marijuana, alleging that the site was being used to sell weed, thus violating company policy.
The practice, known as "shadow banning." makes certain words and terms invisible to users on social media.
In Facebook’s case, the prohibition ended up blocking cannabis companies, advocacy groups and even state regulators, such as Canadian government sites like the Ontario Cannabis Store.
The National Cannabis Industry Association and other nongovernmental organizations including the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) were also blocked this past year.
Advocacy groups welcomed the change of policy, noting that it’s about time Facebook caught up with the majority of Americans and a huge swath of the rest of the world.
“Facebook's policy change is reflecting the reality that marijuana is already legal in 9 states, Washington D.C. and will be legal in Canada next week,” said attorney Keith Stroup, founder of NORML
Stoup called banning searches on the topic of cannabis altogether “idiotic.”
“I realize it’s hard for some of these companies to adjust to the new reality. Facebook is experiencing what all institutions are going through —transitioning from when marijuana use was a crime to it being a legitimate enterprise. It isn't reefer madness anymore,” said Stroup.
Mason Tvert, spokesperson for MPP noted that a growing majority of Americans think marijuana should be legal and an increasing number of countries and states are also accepting it.
“I think it’s a great development and a wise move by Facebook as it’s trying to reconnect with the online community that it has turned off in so many ways,” Tvert said. “Hopefully this is the beginning of a broader evolution on this subject and hopefully they will be starting to treat marijuana like other content.”