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Censorship

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director September 10, 2018

    As more and more states decide to legalize and regulate marijuana, businesses outside of America’s new billion dollar marijuana industry around the country are doing their best to navigate the murky waters of entering into partnerships with state-sanctioned marijuana businesses.

    Some are responding by adopting new company policies more considerate of state laws that grant marijuana-related businesses the freedom to engage in activities that are still prohibited by the federal government (e.g., sale and distribution of marijuana). On the other hand, some of the largest and most well-known social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have decided to steer clear of the issue all together. Instead of evolving like the majority of the American public, where more than 68% support the legalization of adult-use marijuana, they appear to be aggressively suspending social media accounts of marijuana-related businesses while offering little to no explanation as to why.

    Without question, companies, regardless of their products or services, need a strong presence on social media to compete, and ultimately survive in today’s digitized marketplace, but social media accounts of state-sanctioned, legal marijuana businesses are routinely being shut down without warning, and frankly without just cause. This is a devastating blow to companies that have invested time, money and energy into building robust following of tens of thousands of dedicated supporters and potential customers.

    Considering the restrictions against marijuana-related activities outlined in the “Terms of Use” and/or “User Agreement” adopted by most popular social media platforms are based on the fact that marijuana is federally illegal and categorized as a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance, the problems companies like Natural Remedies and Dixie Elixirs are currently experiencing can only be solved by Congress.

    That’s why I believe the focus should be on ending the federal prohibition of marijuana by encouraging members of Congress to pass HR 1227: The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, S.3174: The Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, or S.1689/HR 4815 The Marijuana Justice Act. Not only would marijuana-related companies be able to promote their events and market products on Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms, it will end the harassment, arrest, and incarceration of marijuana patients and consumers, not to mention all of the collateral consequences related to a marijuana charge (e.g. employment and housing discrimination).

    I’m in no way trying to minimize the challenges with censorship that business owners operating in the marijuana industry are facing, but merely trying to redirect focus to the root of the problem. Currently there are numerous business-centric marijuana law reform bills being considered by Congress, and while NORML’s focus continues to be on ending marijuana prohibition and being a voice for marijuana consumers, we are generally supportive of these efforts.

    We at NORML understand and appreciate how marijuana consumers benefit when a company has access to basic banking services such as checking accounts, small business loans and merchant services. We understand that without a stable and predictable environment where businesses can thrive, consumers will be the ones to suffer at the end of the day.

    I’ve highlighted a few business-centric marijuana law reform bills that NORML has created action alerts for below:

    The Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act: http://norml.org/action-center/item/support-the-secure-and-fair-enforcement-banking-act-safe-banking-act

    The Small Business Tax Equity Act: http://norml.org/action-center/item/federal-legislation-pending-to-cease-penalizing-state-compliant-marijuana-businesses-under-the-federal-tax-code

    The States’ Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act: http://norml.org/action-center/item/federal-legislation-pending-to-halt-forfeiture-actions-against-marijuana-facilities

    The State Marijuana And Regulatory Tolerance Enforcement Act: http://norml.org/action-center/item/federal-support-the-state-marijuana-and-regulatory-tolerance-smart-enforcement-act

    For a comprehensive list please visit NORML’s Action Center.

    As a nonprofit organization that’s focused on the larger goal of ending federal marijuana prohibition, we also promote business-centric marijuana law reforms to our members and supporters. If your business would like to support our efforts, please consider becoming a sponsor today!

    “Businesses can do well by doing good, when they join the fight to end prohibition,” says NORML’s development director, Jenn Michelle Pedini. “NORML’s grassroots includes tens of thousands of reform-savvy consumers, and businesses gain exclusive access to that network when they stand alongside them and fight for freedom.”

    Whether you’re a longtime business owner or new to the marijuana industry, we’ll recognize your company on our website and social media for supporting NORML’s longstanding mission of reforming marijuana laws in our country.

    For more information about becoming a NORML Sponsor click here!

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director January 29, 2012

    Last week, the White House launched the next in its long line of social media engagement initiatives, this one entitled “Your Interview With the President.” The concept was simple, anyone could upload their question to the President on YouTube, others would vote on them, and the highest rated ones would be posed to the Commander in Chief in a Google+ Hangout on January 30th.

    This seemed to be a logical opportunity to ask the administration about marijuana legalization. Last Tuesday, I posted NORML’s question to the White House YouTube page for consideration. We asked, “With over 850,000 Americans arrested in 2010, on marijuana charges alone, and tens of billions of tax dollars being spent locking up marijuana users, isn’t it time to regulate and tax marijuana?”

    The reception was overwhelmingly positive, in just several hours the question received over 4,000 “thumbs up” votes and was one of, if not the, most popular question on the service. Then a peculiar thing happened, the question was removed. After becoming the most positively voted upon question in less than a day, the White House removed the question, deeming it “inappropriate.”

    We informed our audience of the censorship and encouraged them to engage the White House on their own, using our question or a one of their own choosing. Over the next several days the program was inundated with marijuana law reform questions. At first, many met the same fate as our original question and were removed from the site. It seems our persistence ended up paying off and the page administrator finally gave up trying to censor the incoming questions and most marijuana inquiries have remained up since.

    Voting closed last night at midnight and I made some rough calculations of the final results to see how we performed. Of the top 160 questions asked, marijuana reform questions accounted for 105 of them. Reposts of our question brought in an estimated 17,524 up-votes in addition to the 4,028 the original received before being removed. Combined, that is over 21,000 votes for one question, which is 5 times as many votes as any other question on the page. The 105 marijuana reform questions in the top 160 brought in over 74,000 votes, dwarfing any other topic. Our friends at LEAP posted a question as well and it ended as one of the top rated questions. You can read their coverage here.

    Now, we wait. “Your Interview With the President” is scheduled to take place tomorrow, January 30th. Considering this is the same individual who previously stated that, “we need to rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws” and that legalization is a “perfectly legitimate topic for debate,” maybe he will take this opportunity to address the issue seriously for once. In an election year, this could go a long way towards winning back those who feel disenfranchised with the administration over a perceived lack of progress on the issue and amped up raids on medical programs in states such as California and Colorado.

    The American people are ready for our debate Mr. President, are you?

     

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director October 27, 2010

    As first reported yesterday afternoon on SouthFloridaGayNews, Google’s YouTube has decided to censor the well done and catchy pro-Prop. 19 musical parody by entertainer Steve Berke after less than 48 hours of the Eminem and Rihanna music video parody going viral on the Internet—garnering over 108,000 views after NORML highlighted the video this past Monday.

    NORML protests YouTube’s removal of a non-controversial, political advertisement that encourages California citizens who’re voting on Tuesday to come out en mass to vote ‘yes’ on the country’s most important cannabis legalization initiative to date.

    Well…if the overlords of public discourse at YouTube didn’t like Mr. Berke’s creativity and support for Prop. 19, what will they do with country music performer Colt Jackson’s video in support of cannabis legalization?

    Or, short filmmakers Fordy Shoor’s and Garth Von Ahnen’s Reefer Madness inspired sci-fi narrative that takes a mocking opposition to Prop. 19. Will YouTube’s censors get the comedy and sense of irony, and build a password wall around it, or allow it to stay up misunderstanding that the animation does not support Cannabis Prohibition?

    Away from YouTube’s prying eyes, comedian and cannabis law reform supporter Rob Cantrell’s new Pro-Prop. 19 video spoofs US Army legend General Patton as ‘General Potton’?

    How about Funny or Die’s Pro-Prop. 19 video? Again, off of YouTube’s system, creative artists don’t have to fear censorship and can address a political concern.

    NORML encourages other like-minded citizens and organizations to contact YouTube and tell them to stop censoring Steve Berke’s ‘Should Be Legalized’ video and let it—along with all other pro-cannabis law reform videos—continue to gather public attention and support for the underlying political message: Let’s end 74-year of Cannabis Prohibition in America!

    YouTube, LLC

    901 Cherry Ave.
    San Bruno, CA 94066
    USA
    Phone: +1 650-253-0000
    Fax: +1 650-253-0001

    YouTube Censors Pro Prop 19 Political Campaign, Comedian’s Video Supports Pro Pot Legalization Drive

    Miami Beach, FL (Oct 26th, 2010) Last week, comedian Steve Berke launched an online political campaign in support of Proposition 19 in California with the recent release of his latest music video, “Should Be Legalized”, a political commentary on Eminem’s music video “Love The Way You Lie.”

    The campaign, supported by NORML (National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws) was generating huge internet buzz, and had amassed 108,000 views within 2 days, when YouTube flagged it for being offensive, thus requiring users to login to view the video, killing the video’s chance at becoming viral.

    “We were on pace to reach 1 million views within a week, and our video was rallying supporters of Prop 19 and decriminalization in every state that had it on the ballot.  Then YouTube flagged us for being offensive and killed any chance we had at reaching our potential audience.   Their censorship of this video is similar to the Internet censorship that takes place in repressive countries like North Korea and China.”

    YouTube failed to give any reason to Berke for flagging the video and it is presently inaccessible to the vast majority of worldwide. “The flagging system does not have a system of recourse and re-review,” stated Berke.

    Fort Lauderdale attorney Norm Kent, on the Board of Directors at NORML, is among those who are outraged.  “We will not let YouTube squash a vibrant political campaign the week before the historic November 2nd elections.

    Videos of rapper Snoop Dogg smoking marijuana are not flagged as offensive, but a song that merely names him as a marijuana user is? YouTube is effectively freezing a viral political movement as it gains momentum in time for a critical vote. They must remove the flag. If they do not, we will pursue the matter further until they do.”

    NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre adds, “YouTube’s building a wall around Steve Berke’s video makes no sense in light of dozens of other videos that depict normal cannabis use.  YouTube, whether it means to or not, is stifling legitimate political discourse regarding an important initiative vote in California next week that seeks to legalize and tax cannabis.”

    “I just don’t understand it,” said Berke.  “People smoking marijuana in videos on YouTube go unflagged, but our video, that involves actors merely pretending to smoke marijuana as political satire, is flagged immediately.”

    “In Eminem’s video, alcohol abuse, spousal abuse, sexual assault, arson and murder are all prevalent and the video is not censored in any way. In fact, YouTube runs ads against it, not only profiting off the video, but also making it viewable to all ages at all times,” Berke added.

    The link to Eminem’s “Love The Way You Lie” is here.

    The link to Berke’s “Should Be Legalized” is here.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director October 2, 2010

    Necessity is the mother of invention.

    Cannabis consumers have always needed and pined for an effective tool that would tell us where the best cannabis can be found, what is the potency and price (and pricing trends).

    Medical cannabis patients in the 14 states and the District of Columbia with cannabis patient protection laws can now visit a single webpage and receive real time pricing, popularity and potency on over 300 cannabis strains at Weed Strain Exchange (which is a component of the successful WeedMaps…See below).

    In reviewing more and more commercial webpages that are catering to the ever-growing and lawful medical cannabis industry Weed Strain Exchange differs from the recently released PriceofWeed in that more information is available for consumers to employ, in real time, when making their medical cannabis purchases.

    The information can be deployed on mobile devices providing the ultimate in cannabis consumer empowerment…making the days of purchasing cannabis from open air drug markets, the dude on the corner or calling a ‘friend’ seem increasingly antiquated.

    Great business story, right?

    Wait a minute…

    With over 90 million Americans living in the states with medical cannabis laws a cool application like Weed Strain Exchange is getting short-sighted and imprudent blow back from one of the country’s biggest Telecom providers, T-Mobile, who has decided it is going to censor WeedMaps’ commerce and is blocking their short code from showing up on T-Mobile devices.

    The matter of a major cell phone provider blocking lawful information about lawful commerce is now in the federal courts where a number of public interest groups (notably Public Knowledge) are supporting WeedMap’s efforts not to be discriminated against by T-Mobile by establishing federal laws that treat text messaging (and other short codes) with the same privacy protections as all of our phone conversations enjoy (which can’t be interfered with unless a judge signs a warrant).

    WeedMaps and its related webpages are not only on the cutting edge of cannabis commerce in America, the company is standing up for the rights of all of us to communicate free of corporate or governmental interference and/or censorship.

    Kudos to WeedMaps!

    Lastly, despite the current legal wranglings with T-Mobile, WeedMaps was acquired today in a friendly merger by LLUC.PL, further demonstrating the era of M & A (mergers and acquisitions) in the nascent, but fast-growing cannabusiness industry in America.

    Looks like cannabis-related businesses are going ever higher.

    Suit against T-Mobile for text blocking heads to federal court this week

    By Cecilia Kang, Washington Post

    September 27, 2010

    A federal court will hear arguments this week on EZ Texting’s suit against T-Mobile for for blocking cellphone text messages. The case has spurred debate over the government’s role as a regulator of text-messaging communications on cellphones.

    On Thursday, the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York will conduct a hearing on allegations that T-Mobile stopped sending texts for EZ Texting’s customer WeedMaps.com, a medical marijuana distribution Web site, because of the content of the site. EZ Texting said that T-Mobile’s action stifled free speech and that rules to protect phone users from blocking should also be applied to texts.

    T-Mobile disputes EZ Texting’s claims in comments to the court, saying the New York-based messaging firm didn’t comply by T-Mobile’s best practices guidelines. EZ Texting was originally assigned the short code 313131 for cellphone users to call and receive text messages for promotions from bars and night clubs. When EZ Texting decided to add marketing alerts for WeedMaps.com, it didn’t inform T-Mobile of the change. T-Mobile said it and the cellular industry require such notification from its short-code partners.

    Last Friday, EZ Texting responded to the court that it believed that Weedmaps.com texts were blocked because of the site’s content. Of T-Mobile’s best practices guidelines, EZ Texting CEO Shane Neman said, “This is not common industry practice, and T-Mobile never enforced this purported requirement until it learned about the Web site at issue here.” (more…)

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director October 13, 2009

    California NORML Release – Oct 12, 2009

    Paypal, the well-known internet payment company has told California NORML that it will no longer accept payments to our “type of business” because we accept listing payments from cannabis-recommending physicians.

    After years of offering free listings to physicians and collectives at our website http://www.canorml.org, CaNORML began charging a yearly listing fee to cover our costs last year.

    PayPal froze CaNORML’s account in June, saying that by accepting listing fees fromcollectives, we were violating their Acceptable Use policy, which says, “you may not use PayPal in the purchase or sale of narcotics.” Although narcotics were not being sold over the CaNORML site, we reluctantly agreed to stop accepting listings fees from collectives that dispense medical marijuana, recognizing that even though they are legal under state law, they are illegal under federal law.  However, we  continued to accept payments online from doctors, attorneys, and members.

    Now PayPal has stopped accepting payments from the CaNORML site because we continued to accept listing payments from physicians.

    Under a ruling upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court (Conant v. Walters, 2003), physicians have the first amendment right to discuss and recommend medical marijuana for their patients, although they may not distribute it or help patients in finding it. PayPal was informed of this and wrote back, “We are not arguing the legality of this issue; we are simply stating that we have made the business decision to not be involved with this type of business.”

    Because of its discriminatory policy and  disregard of physicians’ first amendment rights, CaNORML submits that PayPal is not the “type of business” to be used by those who advocate for human rights. We will file a complaint with the federal banking committee over their practices.

    Located in San Jose, California, PayPal was founded in 1998 and was acquired by eBay (California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman’s former company)  in 2002.

    Complain to: PayPal, 2211 N 1st St, San Jose 95131 (408) 376-7400

    Dale Gieringer, CA NORML

    [Statement of Paypal’s Accceptable Use]

    Hello,

    We appreciate the fact that you chose PayPal to send and receive payments for your transactions.

    Under the Acceptable Use Policy, you may not use PayPal in the purchase or sale of narcotics, steroids, certain controlled substances, products that present a risk to consumer safety or drug paraphernalia.  PayPal makes such decisions after reviewing laws, regulations and other actions by governmental agencies, other available evidence, and marketing content related to the product.

    The complete Acceptable Use Policy can be found at the following URL:
    http://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=p/gen/ua/use/index_frame-outside

    To learn more about the Acceptable Use Policy, please refer to our Help Center page here: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/helpweb?cmd=_help

    We are hereby notifying you that, after a recent review of your account activity, it has been determined that you are in violation of PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy regarding your sales at http://www.canorml.org/prop/collectivetips.html.  PayPal cannot be used to accept fees for listing information related to marijuana dispensaries, delivery services and cannabis physicians.