Facebook Takes Down the Pages of Some Legal Alaska Pot Shops

Article by Becky Bohrer, The Associated Press

Facebook takes down the pages of some legal Alaska pot shops Action has 'an incredibly negative, chilling effect on the commercial speech of these companies' says attorney. James Barrett, a co-owner of Rainforest Farms, poses in his retail marijuana shop in Juneau, Alaska. Barrett hopes for greater clarity from Facebook when it comes to allowable cannabis-related posts, after the social media giant shut down pages set up by several businesses licensed to legally sell marijuana in Alaska

Facebook has shut down pages set up by several businesses licensed to legally sell marijuana in Alaska, severing what some shop owners consider a critical link to their customers.

The social media giant said its standards describe what users can post, and content promoting marijuana sales isn’t allowed. The issue has popped up over the last few years in states that have legalized recreational and medical pot, often coming in waves, industry officials said.

Cary Carrigan, executive director of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association, said the industry has been forced to fight the same battles repeatedly as marijuana gains broader acceptance nationally.

The drug is legal for recreational use in eight states, but it remains illegal on the federal level. It wasn’t clear why the crackdown in Alaska happened within the past couple weeks or what specifically prompted it.

But it comes as social media sites grapple with setting boundaries for what users can post. Twitter has announced efforts to address abusive behavior, while Facebook has said it would do more to help keep violent material and hate speech off the platform.

Jana Weltzin, an Anchorage-based attorney who works with the cannabis industry, said pulling Facebook pages of marijuana businesses “has an incredibly negative, chilling effect on the commercial speech of these companies.”

TV and radio stations often do not allow marijuana advertising, so social media is a way for businesses to communicate directly with their consumers, she said. In Alaska, rules for pot advertising are unclear and inconsistent, Weltzin said.

Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said her organization has sought clear guidelines from Facebook without much success.

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