Ohioans’ right to use medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation came face-to-face with Facebook’s community standards this week.
The social media platform on Wednesday took down the Ohio Medical Cannabis Review page, which gives medical marijuana users a forum to talk about the products available in dispensaries. Nearly 35,000 people saw the page’s posts from mid-July through mid-August, according to a site administrator. A message sent to administrators said the page was deleted for encouraging drug use and the six administrators were given warnings or temporarily suspended from Facebook.
The social media giant’s community standards prohibit the sale of certain regulated goods, including medical marijuana. But the page’s administrators said their site simply involved discussions about product quality.
“It was a page patients could go to and see all the cool things in the program, and also get information so they are informed when they go to their local dispensary,” said page founder Michael Reed, who lives in Dayton.
The move comes a month after the We Grow Ohio Facebook page was suspended in mid-July. The page was restored shortly after The Dispatch reached out to a Facebook representative, who said the suspension was issued in error.
The administrator, Robin Ann Morris, now takes a heavier hand in policing the group’s content.
Images of medical marijuana dispensary menus were flagged, Morris said, so she posted an announcement asking people not to do so.
Now, when she sees those menus, “I remove them right away,” she said.
Reed said that both menus and product reviews were flagged before the review page was deleted. He asked users to stop posting menus but continued to allow reviews. “That’s literally what the page is for,” he said.
Review page administrators Reed and Anthony Cordle, who lives on the Far West Side, believe dispensary employees flagged posts that were critical of their employers.
Cordle, for example, said his personal Facebook page was suspended after he posted a picture of moldy marijuana from an Ohio dispensary.
However, Facebook doesn’t show users who flagged their content, so they can’t say with certainty who objected to their posts.
Both men expressed exasperation, noting that cannabis is now legal for medical marijuana cardholders in Ohio.
A Facebook representative did not respond to a message seeking comment.
While marijuana is now legal for medical or recreational use in a majority of states, Facebook’s acceptable content standards don’t seem to have kept pace.
The problem is not specific to Ohio. Medical marijuana dispensaries had their pages suspended in New Jersey and Colorado in 2016, according to Forbes and NJ.com.
The review page gives patients one of their few forums to express concerns and share their experiences with dispensary products, Reed said. Different strains of marijuana with varying levels of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, and CBD, an extract commonly sold as a dietary supplement, are available at Ohio dispensaries, and Reed said the page helps medical marijuana users find the strain that’s right for them.
“A lot of us have wasted a lot of money trying to find good strains by growers,” he said. “If we can take out the guesswork for the patients it helps lessen their cost.”