The flag of Portsmouth. Photo: JimmyGuano
The flag of Portsmouth. Photo: JimmyGuano

Two drug dealers have been apprehended after advertising cannabis for sale on Facebook. The page was entitled “Portsmouth Cannabis,” and it linked to an Instagram page which had more than 1,160 followers. Officers closed in when they identified the location from the accompanying photo: the roof line was distinctive. After arrests were made, Detective Superintendent Paul Barton, head of serious and organised crime for Hampshire Police, posted: “10/10 for entrepreneurial skills – 0/10 for intelligence.” The story has received attention internationally, with one Dutch website running with “Wietdealers met ‘nul intelligentie’ gepakt via Facebook.”

Hampshire Police’s Cosham Neighbourhood Team tweeted, “Advertise the sale of cannabis on social media and expect a knock knock from us.” Sergeant Rob Sutton, a member of the team, remarked that a man was archiving his cannabis growing, effectively describing how to go about it.

Officers who called at the house found a number of plants. The drug had been grown in a tent in the garden and harvested. One man received a caution and must attend a drug intervention course, while another was given a warning for possession.

Facebook’s rules about cannabis

Facebook disapproves of its service being used for the sale of cannabis, even by parties in US states were there has been some legalization of THIS EVIL DRUG. Its community standards prohibit the purchase or sale of prescription drugs, firearms, and cannabis. The situation is similar to that of banks, who avoid cannabis for fear of racketeering charges from the federal government.

Dozens of Facebook accounts have been closed or suspended, and there are some who believe that hundreds of cannabis-related firms plying their trade perfectly legally could be hit, losing social media followings that might have taken years to acquire. Dixie Elixirs, a Colorado-based company that makes cannabis products, had 11,000 followers on Facebook until one day in 2016 its page disappeared. Joe Hodas, the firm’s director of marketing, bewailed that Facebook and Instagram were “critical,” and losing its Facebook account “really cuts off an arm.” Even ancillary companies – those involved with cannabis but not selling it – have been affected. One example is Stash Tagz, which purveys cannabis-themed T-shirts.

A quick look at Facebook will show you that it can’t keep up with things. Facebook will be unable to deal even just with those accounts that are open about things, but one other trick, courtesy of Olivia Mannix, co-founder of the Cannabrand marketing agency, is to avoid the use of words such as “weed” or “pot” and photographs of products on Facebook. Mannix told of one client who received a message from Facebook suggesting they see a drug counsellor.

Some alternatives

Anyone wishing to sound off about cannabis on social media can use Social High or MassRoots. In 2015, Scott Bettano, who became the CEO of Social High, noticed that friends weren’t interacting with him about cannabis on Facebook and discovered this was because they didn’t want their co-workers or families to see them discussing cannabis, which prompted him to establish a social media platform for this purpose.

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