Facebook is cracking down on CBD ads
Image: Quentin Sokolow / The Burn-In

If you’ve been online in the last year, you’ve undoubtedly seen advertisements for products containing Cannabidiol (CBD). The non-psychoactive marijuana derivative can now be found in everything from oils to chocolate to dog biscuits. However, the popular social network Facebook does not allow its users to advertise the sale of “illegal” CBD products.

Furthermore, the platform has taken to deleting the profiles of companies and individuals who violate the ban. The problem is, the service doesn’t explicitly tell its partners ads for the anti-anxiety supplement are verboten. Consequently, several companies have abruptly lost the business pages they spent years building up without warning or explanation.

Why Facebook Doesn’t Allow CBD Ads

As confirmed by The Verge, Facebook does not permit the sale of CBD-derived products on its service. The firm holds the position that they fall under the prohibited categories of “unsafe supplements” and “illegal products.” Though CBD is technically legal because the federal government lifted its ban on hemp production last year, the substance is mostly unregulated.

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers CBD a prescription drug but has yet to crack down on retailers that sell it as a supplement. Indeed, hemp oils are available to purchase on Amazon and at the Kroger supermarket chain. Moreover, The New York Times reports CBD sales will reach $16 billion annually by 2025. But because of its lack of classification and standardization, Facebook views it the same way it does Percocet and heroin.

Unfortunately, the platform doesn’t reference CBD on its policy pages, and that lack of clarity has hurt many of its business users.

User Crackdown and Lawsuit

Wellness companies, spas, and retailers have seen their Facebook pages vanish after uploading CBD advertisements. Moreover, when those users tried to find out why they lost access to the service, they learned the platform has an unstated zero-tolerance CBD policy.

For example, Lacey Steffes, a spa owner, has spent $42,000 promoting her business via Facebook since 2017. However, the service deleted her company page after she posted a single CBD ad.

Similarly, Jen Rudis, owner of health firm Jenerate Wellness, lost her account after sharing a photo of CBD oil. After spending thousands of dollars appealing the platform’s decision, Rudis was forced to start a new page. As she used Facebook as her primary marketing channel, the corporation’s policy enforcement prompted a “tremendous” hit on her revenues.

One business owner who ran afoul of Facebook’s CBD policy, however, took legal action against the social media giant.

Felicia Palmer, the founder of respected music site SOHH.com, attempted to organize an online cannabis retailer summit. To promote the event, she created a series of ads promoting the benefits of CBD oil. In response, the service deleted her profile. Palmer is now suing Facebook for fraud and deceptive advertising practices, and the case is open to additional plaintiffs.

While the outcome of Palmer’s lawsuit is unknown, it’s undeniable that Facebook needs to update its advertising policies. Indeed, the company hasn’t limited its inexplicable advertising bans to just CBD retailers.

Overall, the platform shouldn’t position itself as a partner to small businesses without having transparent standards. Furthermore, Facebook can’t pretend it maintains community standards when it bans health products but facilitates the sale of child brides.

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