Since marijuana is not legal under federal law, social stigma creates problems for cannabis products and businesses even in states where it is legal. As a result, the cannabis industry constantly faces obstacles and challenges that are not applied to other substances, such as alcohol or tobacco. As the Chief Marketing Officer at Nug Avenue, a marijuana delivery service based in Los Angeles, my team and I have witnessed this clear double standard in multiple ways.
First and foremost are issues with social media. Despite Nug Avenue’s popularity among customers, we are currently on our fourth Instagram account. Anonymous users continuously report our page, which has resulted in it getting shut down.
Many industry accounts that try to build a social media presence on Instagram are unfortunately victims of this shadowban effect. As marketer Colin Bambury recently commented, “Everyone I know basically in the cannabis industry has had an account deleted at some point.”
To minimize the probability of being reported, flagged for inappropriate content, or having to create a fifth Instagram account in the future, we at Nug Avenue have resorted to making our latest Instagram private to our customer base only. Strangely, even though our Facebook page features identical posts, it has never been shut down.
Telecommunications companies have also been biased against cannabis businesses, which rely on their services to market and sell products in places where cannabis consumption is legal.
For instance, Nug Avenue relies on services that employ cloud communication software Twilio to connect with our customers through phone calls or automated text messages (SMS). In early May, however, many cannabis companies that were using such services to fulfill orders or market their products reported messaging interruptions or even complete shutdowns.
While Nug Avenue’s SMS services were not permanently affected, our servers did experience errors for several days. We were lucky only to suffer a slight negative impact on our sales and promotional efforts.
Many cannabis companies will need to find a new way to reach customers’ phones in the future, however, since Twilio released a statement on its website stating that the company no longer wishes to work with cannabis companies. Our own service providers had to find an alternative to Twilio.
Twilio isn’t alone. To our surprise, messaging services backed by large companies such as AT&T and T-Mobile have also announced that they were terminating their services for cannabis companies. As grounds for this new policy, they cited new federal regulations meant to take aim at spam.
In response, cannabis businesses have filed complaints with the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), pooling together to address this unwarranted attack with the help of legal counsel.
Despite these challenges, the future of the cannabis industry remains bright due to the slow and steady legalization of recreational marijuana across the US. Younger generations such as Millennials and Generation Z already widely accept cannabis products. Recent data collected by the analytics company Headse, stated that Generation Z recreational marijuana consumption has actually increased from 8% in 2020 to 12.7% in 2021. Members of the Baby Boomer generation, on the other hand, have shown evidence of decreased consumption, going from 13.9% to 12.2% within that same 12-month timespan.
Given time and proper educational resources, the de-stigmatization of cannabis should gradually dismantle the double standard we witness today.