Why Facebook deleted New Jersey's medical marijuana pages

Facebook deleted pages for three of New Jersey's five medical marijuana dispensaries, in a move that many in the Garden State are calling inconsistent and unwarranted. 

Seth Perlman/AP
Marijuana plants are seen nearly ready for harvest at the Ataraxia medical marijuana cultivation center in Albion, Ill., Sept. 15, 2015.

Three of New Jersey’s five medical marijuana dispensaries have had their business pages taken down by Facebook this week.  

Breakwater Treatment and Wellness in Cranbury, Garden State in Woodbridge, and Compassionate Sciences in Bellmawr have all had their pages removed “for violating our Community Standards,” Facebook spokeswoman Arielle Aryah tells The Associated Press. 

The site’s ‘Community Standards’ ban advertising or promotion of drugs, tobacco, and guns.

But New Jersey pot users, sellers, and promoters are left scratching their heads because medicinal marijuana has been legal in the Garden State since 2011.  

“It’s just not right for Facebook to do this. It’s entirely inappropriate,” Ken Wolski, chief executive officer of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana of New Jersey, tells The Christian Science Monitor in a phone interview Thursday. “It’s not illegal drug use, marijuana is medicine in New Jersey. The state has the responsibility to decide what is medicine and what is not, the Supreme Court has agreed to that.” 

While all forms of marijuana violate federal law, the Obama administration has made it clear that federal law enforcement will avoid investigating uses that are legal at the state level. 

Medical marijuana is legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia. New Jersey currently has over 5,650 patients registered in the program.   

The dispensaries say Facebook’s actions are hurting their patients, as many medical marijuana patients check the pages daily too see if their designated strain of marijuana is in stock. 

“Medical marijuana is highly individualized for patients. There are thousands of strains and some of them are more effective for various conditions,” Mr. Wolski tells the Monitor. Because there is a “great deal of ignorance” in the medical community about marijuana, “education about marijuana is difficult to get.” The typical advice to ask your doctor isn’t typically relevant, he explains.  

“If you can’t ask your doctor if a certain strain will help you more than another, one way you can get this information is from the dispensary’s Facebook page where other patients like you can talk about which strains work best for them,” says Wolski. “It’s so important for patients to have places where they can communicate freely with other people who are knowledgeable in this industry.” 

Mike Nelson, general manager of Compassionate Sciences, tells The Associated Press that the dispensary’s Facebook page is its main communication tool. And patient Amy Marie Keller from Roselle Park says without Garden State dispensary’s Facebook page, she will have to call the dispensary every morning to see if her specific strains are in stock. 

Facebook is “incredibly important because the state limits what we can do on our website,” adds Mr. Nelson. Under New Jersey state law, the five medical marijuana dispensaries are prohibited from advertising. So “communication between patients about what is working” on the Facebook page is a way to educate users without breaking the law. 

“What is Facebook going to do next? Shut down the New Jersey Department of Health page?” asks Wolski.

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