After roughly three months of internal and external deliberations, Facebook Inc. decided Tuesday to continue attempting to block the sale of marijuana on its platform.
At its weekly product policy meeting, executives and staff in Ireland, Washington D.C., Kenya, Los Angeles and Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park — roughly 60 people total — ran through the relative merits and concerns with allowing content touting cannabis sales and selling weed directly, with a MarketWatch reporter in attendance. Ultimately, they determined that Facebook would not alter its policies, but staffers plan to make several changes to the way it handles the platform’s current marijuana content rules.
Facebook currently bans any mentions or displays of pot that attempt to sell, trade or barter the drug, which is legal for recreational use Canada and some states, though it is prohibited by the U.S. federal government.
But the current Facebook policy allows for content pushing products derived from cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis plants. Also acceptable are posts, pages and non-advertising content touting the sale of cannabis seeds and items such as bongs, rolling papers, vaporizers and accessories that are often found at legal smoke shops.
Staffers presented material that specifically applies to what Facebook broadly calls community content. It has separate advertising rules for tobacco, drugs and other regulated products such as guns and CBD. Accessory ad rules are tighter too.
Maintaining the company’s ban on cannabis content and sales could be a hindrance for cannabis companies trying to build a brand and relationships with customers, several people in the cannabis industry told MarketWatch late Tuesday.
“What is the dream that has been killed?” Rebecca Brown, founder of Crowns Agency, which specializes in cannabis marketing and brand consulting, said over the phone Tuesday. “Everyone needs to build a brand, and not just micro brands, but household, name brands. Facebook has reached and scale that competes with traditional broadcast. The bitter pill of this decision was that Facebook could have become an opportunity that could have solved very significant impediments to [cannabis companies] becoming a Coke, a Starbucks, a Walmart,” Brown said.
Facebook studied three potential changes to its cannabis sales policy, according to presentation slides. One would have allowed users to sell pot directly to one another and buy from recreational and medical pot shops in legal jurisdictions. A second option looked at only buying from brick-and-mortar shops where pot is legal, and a third narrowed sales further still to only those stores involved with medical cannabis.
Overall, Facebook executives and staff determined that because cannabis laws around the world vary widely and are unstable, it would be impossible to roll out a feasible, global policy on pot sales. The company also said that, partially because of regulatory uncertainty, it would be “operationally difficult” to implement policies — for example, determining who is a legitimate operator and who is not, across hundreds of jurisdictions.
In the presentation, Facebook said it was going to spend more time training content moderators about its cannabis-related policies and talking with pot businesses about what’s allowed. As with all of its community policies, Facebook reviews them frequently.
While Canada has set national guidelines for the production and sale of pot, the same is not true in the U.S., where the drug remains federally illegal.
In the U.S., rules for pot sales differ among states that have legal recreational-cannabis sales, such as Colorado, Washington and California. Even within California, there are dozens of rules set by municipalities that bolt on additional requirements — such as licensing storefronts — that have created a motley collection of inconsistent rules.
“For companies that are focused on creating a brand like we are, that is only accessible to those over the age of 18, Facebook is one of the best ways in the world to only target the audience we want to speak to,” Jake Heimark, chief executive of edibles-maker Plus Products Inc. said over the phone.
“It’s a real loss for the whole industry,” he said. “That’s the worst thing about this — Facebook could be a partner. But it’s a global company and they’re put in a difficult spot.”
Even in Canada there is some variation between provinces, among them the minimum age for purchasing pot. And even if Facebook were to relax its policies on selling pot on its platform, marketing cannabis products — including on Facebook — would remain restricted and heavily regulated by Health Canada, the government agency responsible for public health.
“We’re dealing with a regulator that’s trying to fix that plane while they’re flying it,” Michael Elkin, vice president of partnerships and sales at High 12 Brands, said late Tuesday over the phone. “Health Canada has not come out with a specific regulation — we’re still waiting for proper direction. Nothing [would have] changed.”
The Telegraph reported in March that Facebook had undertaken a project to reconsider its content policies around cannabis sales.
Several Canadian pot companies, including Aurora Cannabis Inc.and Canopy Growth Corp, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Facebook stock is up 41% year to date, as the S&P 500 index has gained 14%.
经过大约三个月的内部和外部讨论， Facebook 公司周二决定继续试图阻止其平台上的大麻销售。
在每周一次的产品政策会议上，爱尔兰、华盛顿、肯尼亚、洛杉矶和 Facebook 位于门罗公园( Menlo Park )的总部的高管和员工（总共约有60人）在一位市场观察( MarketWatch )记者在场的情况下，对允许兜售大麻销售和直接销售大麻的内容进行了相对的优点和担忧。最终，他们决定 Facebook 不会改变其政策，但员工计划对其处理平台当前大麻内容规则的方式进行几次修改。
但 Facebook 目前的政策允许内容推送源自大麻的产品，或 CBD ，一种在大麻植物中发现的无毒化合物。同样可以接受的还有宣传大麻种子和物品销售的海报、网页和非广告内容，如帽子、卷筒纸、蒸发器和配件，这些东西通常在合法的烟雾店里找到。
Staffers 提供的材料专门适用于 Facebook 广泛称为社区内容的内容。它对烟草、毒品以及枪支和 CBD 等受监管产品有单独的广告规则。辅助广告规则也更加严格。
大麻行业的几位人士周二晚向市场观察( MarketWatch )表示，对试图打造品牌并与客户建立关系的大麻公司而言，维持该公司对大麻内容和销售的禁令可能是一个障碍。
“被打死的梦是什么？“专营大麻营销和品牌咨询的 Crowns Agency 的创始人丽贝卡•布朗( Rebecca Brown )周二在电话中表示。“每个人都需要打造一个品牌，而不仅仅是微型品牌，而是家喻户晓的品牌。Facebook 已经达到和传统广播相竞争的规模。布朗表示：“这一决定的痛苦药丸是， Facebook 本可以成为一个机遇，解决阻碍（大麻公司）成为可口可乐、星巴克和沃尔玛（Walmart）的重大障碍。”
根据演示幻灯片， Facebook 研究了大麻销售政策的三个潜在变化。人们会允许用户直接向对方出售大麻，并从法律管辖范围内的娱乐和医疗大麻商店购买。第二种选择是只从合法大麻的实体商店购买大麻，第三种选择是进一步缩小销售范围，仅限于那些涉及医用大麻的商店。
总体而言， Facebook 的高管和员工认为，由于世界各地大麻法律差别很大，而且不稳定，因此不可能出台切实可行的全球大麻销售政策。该公司还表示，部分由于监管方面的不确定性，实施政策“在操作上很难”，例如，在数百个司法管辖区内，确定谁是合法运营商，谁不是。
Facebook 在发布会上表示，将花更多时间培训内容主持人，让他们了解与大麻相关的政策，并与大麻企业讨论允许的政策。与所有社区政策一样， Facebook 也经常对其进行评论。
“对于那些专注于打造像我们这样的品牌的公司来说，只有18岁以上的人才能进入， Facebook 是世界上最好的方式之一，它只针对我们想要与之交谈的受众，”食品生产商 Plus Products Inc .首席执行官杰克•海马克( Jake Heimark )表示
“这对整个行业来说是一个真正的损失，”他说。“这是最糟糕的事情—— Facebook 可能成为合作伙伴。但这是一家全球性的公司，它们陷入了困境。”
即使在加拿大，各省之间也有一些差异，其中最小购买罐子的年龄。即使 Facebook 放松了在其平台上销售大麻的政策，大麻产品的营销——包括在 Facebook 上——仍将受到负责公共卫生的政府机构加拿大卫生部( Health Canada )的限制和严格监管。
“我们正在与一家监管机构打交道，该机构正试图在飞机飞行时修复这架飞机，” High12 Brands 负责合作和销售的副总裁迈克尔•埃尔金( Michael Elkin )周二晚间在电话中表示。“加拿大卫生部还没有出台具体的法规——我们仍在等待合适的方向。没有什么改变。”
《电讯报》（The Telegraph）》今年3月报道， Facebook 曾实施一个项目，重新考虑其有关大麻销售的内容政策。
几家加拿大罐子公司，包括奥罗拉（Aurora） Cannabis 公司
和 Canopy Growth 公司，没有立即回应置评请求。