Tech giant Facebook is blocking any promoted mentions of CBD and hemp on its platform. But the company doesn’t say anything specifically about CBD or hemp in any of its rules regarding permissible content. Instead, Facebook is simply shutting down, and in some cases deleting, accounts and pages it deems are in violation of its ad policies. At the same time, Facebook doesn’t seem to be very willing to explain its own rationale for banning pages promoting CBD or hemp products. And that’s frustrating for business and individuals who post and advertise on the platform because CBD isn’t illegal.
In just a few years, the CBD market has rocketed from a niche health and wellness trend to a mainstream phenomenon. Analysts project a CBD market that could break $20 billion by 2022. And businesses from small cafés to massive pharmacy retailers are stocking CBD products to meet surging consumer demands. In short, CBD is extremely popular, and that makes it a big business.
But at the moment, Facebook isn’t being very friendly to businesses that sell CBD and other hemp products. To the contrary, Facebook seems to be going to extraordinary lengths to ban and censor CBD and hemp-related content, especially in promoted pages and ads.
Multiple companies and online retailers have reported sudden suspensions of their accounts, deleted pages and ad takedowns. But when users ask Facebook to explain why the word “CBD” or the picture of a hemp leaf violates its rules, the company isn’t providing clear answers. Facebook spokespeople also aren’t being very clear.
Facebook has confirmed the ban on CBD and hemp advertising. But it’s backing up that decision with company policies that don’t specifically mention hemp or CBD. Instead, Facebook’s policies just say it prohibits pages that promote “illegal products or services,” “drugs and drug-related products,” and “unsafe supplements.”
But CBD, by the federal government’s own definition, is none of those things. As long as it comes from hemp and contains no more than 0.3 percent THC, cannabidiol is legal. Neither is CBD a drug or drug-related product. The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp and its derivatives from the federal list of controlled substances. And finally, CBD technically cannot be a supplement. That’s one of the restrictions on legal CBD put in place by the USDA and FDA.
The problem, however, is that Facebook determines “at its sole discretion” whether hemp or CBD belongs to any of those categories. And at the moment, the company is treating hemp just like any other marijuana product containing THC. And without clear rules, users are taking unknown risks—and potentially wasting money— advertising hemp or CBD on the platform.
Despite an announcement last October when Facebook said it would stop shadow banning cannabis-related content, the company’s ban on CBD seems to have been in place for several years. Now, however, Facebook is facing a lawsuit over its stance on CBD-related content.
Felicia Palmer, who founded one of the oldest hip hop websites on the internet, filed a lawsuit against Facebook early this June. Palmer, who turned to cannabis as she fought breast cancer in 2016, paid Facebook to promote posts about CBD and the online cannabis summit, Cannaramic. But after accepting the money, Facebook didn’t show the ads. Then, it completely disabled Palmer’s ads account. Facebook said it disabled the account because it “doesn’t allow ads that promote illegal, prescription, or recreational drugs.”
Facebook is aggressively enforcing its ban on hemp and CBD. But its inability to provide a clear justification for doing so is beginning to drive businesses away from its platform. For small businesses, who spend considerable money promoting goods and services, an un-announced, unpredictable account suspension can be a major issue. Account deletions and ad takedowns can seriously impact a company’s revenue.