Facebook Rejects Ads With Pot Leaf Supporting California Prop. 19

Paula Duffy's picture

When is the image of a marijuana leaf banned from an ad on Facebook? When it is considered a tobacco product. Facebook has removed ads for California's Proposition 19, that would legalize sale, use and cultivation of non-medical pot.

According to Wired, the group called "Just Say Now" had placed the ads which were displayed on Facebook starting on August 7- August 16. Prior to their removal, the ads had generated almost 40 million impressions.

Wired received a letter from Facebook with an explanation about their thinking in the matter: “The image in question was no longer acceptable for use in Facebook ads,” wrote Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes in an e-mail to Wired.com. “The image of a marijuana leaf is classified with all smoking products and therefore is not acceptable under our policies.”

Another spokesman for the social networking giant had this to say: “We don’t allow any images of drugs, drug paraphernalia or tobacco in ad images on Facebook,” wrote Annie Ta. “Just Say Now can continue to advertise on Facebook using a different image.”

Facebook Policy Classifies Pot Leaf As Smoking Product

A marijuana leaf is plant material. It is not a drug in and of itself nor is it paraphernalia, so it must be tobacco. Jane Hamsher, of the Firedoglake blog is assisting the campaign on behalf of Prop. 19. She correctly points out that alcohol ads with images of the booze in question are welcome on Facebook.

Now mind you, this is an image in support of a legitimate voter initiative in the country's most populous state. It is a political advertisement. It is not, in any case, an ad to urge consumers to purchase something already on the shelves of America's retail stores, like eggs. Beware of purchasing those products these days.

The campaign in support of Prop. 19 is being aggressively pushed on college campuses throughout California. It makes sense that the demographic attending universities would take notice of advertising on Facebook, a source of news for many and a place for discussion and opinion about the most divisive of topics. When the ads were up they helped drive the Facebook page dedicated to the initiative up to 6,000 members.

Don't think that Facebook's decision is applauded by college students on the right. The Huffington Post reached out to Young Americans for Freedom for an opinion. "Our generation made Facebook successful because it was a community where we could be free and discuss issues like sensible drug policy. If Facebook censorship policies continue to reflect those of our government by suppressing freedom of speech then they won't have to wait until Election Day to be voted obsolete," said Jordan Marks, the head of Young Americans for Freedom.

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