As CBD Booms, Facebook Is Quietly Cracking Down On Ads

Facebook’s advertising policies make no mention of CBD

If you’re looking for it, you can find a CBD-infused version of just about everything: coffee, chocolate, vapes, shampoos, masks, moisturizers, mints, pet treats — in short, just about everything. A survey in January found 65 million Americans had tried CBD in some form, with 63 percent finding it effective; it’s finally gone mainstream. As a non-psychoactive derivative of the hemp plant, its effects are difficult to pin down, but the market for CBD is undeniable, estimated to grow as high as $16 billion over the next six years. It’s become something of a cliché that if you have a problem that modern medicine can’t seem to fix, someone will eventually offer you CBD.

Facebook, on the other hand, still treats CBD like the contraband it isn’t. Lacey Steffes owns and runs Spa Serenity, a small business in Baraboo, Wisconsin, which offers a range of CBD-infused treatments. When she tried to post an ad earlier this year featuring — in her recollection — a marijuana leaf and the word “CBD,” her business ad account was immediately disabled. “It was on a Friday because I just remember going home and saying to my husband like, ‘I got kicked off Facebook today,’” she says. “And he was like, ‘I don’t think I’ve ever seen you like this.’” Steffes wasn’t sure what she was going to do next. But she knew she was annoyed.

And it isn’t just Steffes; nearly anyone dealing with CBD ads on Facebook has had some version of that experience. Monika Allen is a freelance copywriter who handles social media for one client in health and wellness. Her client had planned to host an open house with presentations from members of the local community, and one proposed submission happened to cover CBD oil and how it might be helpful. They put an ad up. “Within about five minutes of putting that ad up, her ad account got shut down,” says Allen. Her appeals were rejected. So Allen decided to take one of Facebook’s ad creation classes to show she was serious about following the platform’s rules — and then found there was nothing in them about CBD oil. “They do say marijuana you can’t promote,” she said. “And alcohol for different ages and things like that. But CBD oil is not THC.”

Facebook’s advertising policies make no mention of CBD, but a spokesperson for the company confirmed to The Verge that users are not allowed to post ads mentioning CBD or ingestible hemp, and that paying to promote posts that mention those products is also not allowed. The only sign of that in the company policies is a prohibition against “illegal products or services,” “drugs & drug-related products,” and “unsafe supplements,” the last of which is “as determined by Facebook in its sole discretion.” For Facebook, that “sole discretion” means that CBD is treated the same as any other marijuana derivative, a bizarre policy for those familiar with the extract. And with no public mention of the issue, there’s no way for users to know they’re risking an account ban just by advertising a spa treatment.

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