Facebook suspends grocery store’s ad account for discussing CBD oil

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Last week, when Gov. Eric Holcomb signed Senate Bill 52 to legalize CBD oil for all Hoosiers, the owner of Georgetown Market celebrated the news by re-posting WTHR’s breaking news report on his Facebook page.

Owner Rick Montieth paid a little extra to “boost” the post on his social media platform in an effort to share the news with as many customers as possible.

“We were excited,” said Montieth, whose westside Indianapolis grocery store started selling CBD oil long before a statewide legal debate erupted last summer. “We knew people would want to know the governor signed the CBD oil bill into law.”

But the excitement soon turned to disbelief. Montieth says Facebook blocked the grocery store’s attempt to boost the posting and then disabled Gerogetown Market’s ad account.

Facebook sent Montieth a notification that states “We don’t allow ads that promote illegal drugs.” Yes, part of his Facebook account was disabled for allegedly promoting an “illegal drug” on the same day the governor signed a law declaring CBD oil legal. (Of course, CBD oil is neither a drug nor is it illegal.) The irony prompted the store owner to contact WTHR.

“They have an appeal process so I sent in my appeal saying I disagreed. I even asked if they read the post that said CBD is now LEGAL in Indiana,” Montieth told WTHR late last week. “Apparently that didn’t make a difference. I got an e-mail from Facebook saying my appeal was denied and that it is permanent.”

To be clear, the alert that Georgetown Market posted on its website reported news of the bill signing:

“BREAKING: It's official. CBD oil is now legal in Indiana. Gov. Holcomb signed the law (SEA 52) earlier today. It takes effect immediately.”

Facebook quickly reversed its “final decision” to disable the ad account after being contacted by WTHR for an explanation.

A Facebook spokeswoman explained why the account was mistakenly suspended. She said Facebook has a strict Community Standards Policy that determines what can and cannot be posted on Facebook. “We remove content, disable accounts, and work with law enforcement when we believe there is a genuine risk of physical harm or direct threats to public safety,” the policy states.

Included in the Community Standards Policy is a prohibition on promoting regulated products. The policy says “We prohibit any attempts by private individuals to purchase, sell, or trade prescription drugs, marijuana, firearms or ammunition.”

Where does CBD oil fall into that policy? CBD oil comes from cannabis plants, the same type of plant that produces marijuana. But unlike marijuana, which comes from a variety of cannabis that is high in THC and can make you high, CBD oil comes from a different type of cannabis called industrial hemp that has little or no THC and produces no psychoactive high at all.

While Facebook ads cannot promote the sale of illegal or prescription drugs, Facebook acknowledged it overstepped its own policy in taking disciplinary action against Georgetown Market.

“Even for regulated goods, we do allow for discussion about products and their legality, so in this situation, there was a mistake made on our end,” the Facebook spokeswoman told WTHR. “This wasn’t trying to sell the product but, rather, was discussing the article. That does not violate our advertising policy and we apologize for the error.”

Facebook has since lifted the penalty against Georgetown Market.

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