- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 17, 2016

At least a dozen state-legal marijuana businesses across the country have accused Facebook of shutting down their company pages without explanation.

NBC News confirmed that at least a dozen legitimate cannabis businesses in six states have experienced shutdowns.

In New Jersey, three of the state’s five medical marijuana dispensaries, or Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs), reportedly had their Facebook pages disabled last week for violating Facebook’s “Community Standards.”

The surprise move stunned dispensary owners, who have operated for years without so much as a warning about offensive material, The Guardian reported.

“I think it was very capricious and arbitrary of Facebook to have taken this action in the first place,” Peter Rosenfeld, a board member of the Coalition of Medical Marijuana of New Jersey, told NBC. “They at least have a responsibility to explain, in detail, why they took the action they did and how to avoid these actions in the future.”

Colorado-based Mary’s Medicinals, which makes products like patches, gels pens and capsules that use marijuana, saw its Facebook page shut down in January after three years without an issue. Facebook said it “remove[s] any promotion or encouragement of drug use,” and gave the company an opportunity to appeal, employees said.

Denver Relief Dispensary also said its Facebook account was deleted two weeks ago after seven years of no incidents, The Guardian reported.

A Facebook spokesperson responded to NBC in an email: “These pages have been removed for violating our Community Standards, which outline what is and is not allowed on Facebook.”

The spokesperson also pointed to the company’s “Regulated Goods” policy, which states that Facebook “prohibits any attempts by unauthorized dealers to purchase, sell, or trade prescription drugs, marijuana or firearms.”

“If you post an offer to purchase or sell alcohol, tobacco, or adult products, we expect you to comply with all applicable laws and carefully consider the audience for that content,” the policy stipulates.

Attorney Kaiser Wahab, who has represented clients in dealings with Facebook, said that while these marijuana dispensaries are legal in their states, they’re still viewed as illegal under federal law, NBC reported.

“If it’s something that could be illegal on a federal level, then you have to look at your operation as it exists on Facebook in a continuum. And one end of the continuum is hey, we’re just discussing the industry,” he said.

“I think a lot of people when they first saw this happening, thought that Facebook is acting very obtuse, possibly motivated by some ideology,” Mr. Wahab added. “There really is sort of a very basic legal concern there.”

“This is [Facebook] being preemptive and proactive. Whether it’s an overreaction or not is not something that they care to be on the wrong side of. It’s an abundance of caution that they’re showing.”

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