Damn, TikTok Really Hates Weed
Plus legal updates, news & drops.
The Broccoli Report
Monday, July 12, 2021
Time to read: 8 minutes, 59 seconds. 1799 words.
Big news from the podcast recording studio in my closet: The first merch drop from Broccoli Talk has arrived. We designed a pair of lightweight socks featuring our happy weed friends in the podcast logo. There’s also a fresh Broccoli Talk episode out now featuring my conversation with Heather Larimer, chief marketing officer of low-dose edible brand 1906, touching on working in weed, weed and motherhood, and more.
Before I break down the challenges for cannabis content on TikTok, I wanted to tease this Friday’s paid newsletter outlining the do’s and don'ts of starting a nonprofit. Everyone reading this newsletter wants good ideas and innovative entrepreneurs to thrive in this industry and for this industry to operate in a fair and equitable way. And I know many want to do something to make that happen. But here’s the question: Is a nonprofit model right for your brand? I spoke with four founders running impactful organizations across the cannabis community and beyond to get their advice for brands that want to do more good—and they shared valuable caveats for those with an idea for a meaningful organization.
Friday’s are for paid subscribers, so tap the button below to make it happen!
Damn, TikTok Really Hates Weed: Lessons from a dozen bans and account suspensions.
My social media time predominantly takes place on Instagram. I was late to TikTok, and even after opening an account, I don’t find myself remembering to open it daily. That’s not because I don’t enjoy it; it absolutely makes me laugh. I see the power of its personal algorithm—it hypnotized my Boomer dad with fishing and cooking content and instantly understood my love of ‘90s hip-hop music video jokes. It’s a less polished, more equitable space that allows millions of eyes to see the funniest, most creative content, regardless of its creator’s following or clout (though that’s not always the case in the dance category).
No, I don’t use TikTok because it won’t let me do a damn thing.
Let’s start with the day I opened an account. I tried to put “weed writer” in the bio and immediately got banned for three days. On TikTok, “weed,” “cannabis,” and “stoner” are absolute no-no’s that seem to get deleted upon posting. Perhaps using “weed” flagged me into a cannabis danger zone because the platform banned me again for trying “flower girl” instead. I surrendered, resorting to pure emojis.
Other users got creative, using digital pseudonyms like “stoñer” and “ouid,” but TikTok has caught on. Anything concerning “illegal activities and regulated goods,” regardless of whether “the goods or activities in question are legal in the jurisdiction of posting” is going to be a no, or at least at risk. I don’t chance using #stonertok anymore, though I’m still unclear of how harsh they are with hashtags. Here are some other lessons I’m learning through trial-and-error:
No bongs. A picture of a bong was immediately deleted, even though I didn’t mention weed anywhere.
No buds, but it took them a minute. My montage of manicures breaking up nugs saw 600+ views before getting deleted.
Weirdly, I said, “smoke a bowl” in the text on a video that endures on my feed. (Albeit maybe shadowbanned, because how else can you explain such low numbers on such 🔥content?)
Hemp llamas? Apparently, those are fine.
But it seems that my infractions are adding up. Last week, I received a special “system notification”:
Repeated violations of our Community Guidelines could result in being temporarily blocked or permanently banned from TikTok. We ask that all users follow our Community Guidelines to help us maintain a safe, respectful TikTok community.
So, I need to keep the green off-camera, or else I’m going to strike out on this platform. I don’t see what could drastically shift TikTok’s policies any time soon. In a 2019 feature on TikTik for The New Yorker, Jia Tolentino investigated the origins of the platform. According to Tolentino's reporting, it's unclear how much autonomy the company has under its parent company, ByteDance, which is based in China. Given that China's relationship with cannabis is fraught, it raises troubling questions about how national agendas might shape a private company's policies, and how those policies might work to uphold stigmas around the world. Apple’s decision to allow cannabis-related apps in its store is a sign of positive progress, but I have a feeling that even if President Biden legalized cannabis tomorrow, TikTok wouldn’t budge.
One-Hitters: Cannabis News at a Glance
Since South Dakota voters passed a bill legalizing cannabis for medical and adult use last November, Republican Governor Kristi Noem has been fighting its implementation. (This is the same governor under scrutiny for a showy deployment of National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border via private donation). Her lawsuit challenging the law’s constitutionality may scuttle recreational cannabis in the state altogether, and bureaucratic roadblocks may delay its medical marijuana program until mid-2022.
Despite allllllll of that, right now, anyone with a medical card from any state can legally buy weed from a Sioux-owned shop in the tiny S.D. town of Flandreau. The dispensary [link downloads PDF], owned and operated by the Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe, is located on Native Nation land. As a sovereign nation, it can legally sell medical cannabis as of July 1, 2021, per the state’s medical marijuana law. This is thanks to an Obama-era Department of Justice memorandum [link downloads PDF] stating that tribes with cannabis businesses that obey state law and keep weed out of the hands of criminals and minors were not “priorities for prosecution.” Time will tell if Governor Noem or local enforcement will nip this endeavor in the bud, but her hands are pretty full at the moment.
U.S. Olympic athlete Sha’Carri Richardson has been suspended after testing positive for cannabis. The one-month suspension ends July 28, prior to the Olympics, but the positive test erases her incredible Olympic trials performance in the women’s 100-meter race, and she did not make the 4x100-meter relay roster. It’s infuriating that Richardson had to divulge her personal reasons for consuming the plant in a legal state; it’s infuriating that cannabis is considered more performance-affecting than an Adderall prescription; it’s infuriating that these outdated sentiments tainted this extremely talented athlete’s breakout moment.
The latest Rose Delights collaboration with Dirt is a Valencia orange, Anjou pear, passion fruit, grapefruit, and celery gummy, coated in a brown, dusty blend of Kukoto sugar, Mendocino candy cap mushrooms, activated charcoal, cacao, and Maldon sea salt flakes. So yes—it literally looks coated in dirt, and I still can’t wait to try it.
Morocco’s Parliament passed a bill legalizing cannabis—but it has nothing to do with Moroccans freely consuming weed. Bill 13.21 legalizes the cultivation and use of cannabis for medicinal and industrial purposes but continues to prohibit “non-medical personal use.” Interestingly, unlike U.S. legacy cultivators’ hostility toward the whitewashed, corporatized legal realm, multigeneration Moroccan cultivators are the ones most hopeful about this bill. Moroccan authorities outlawed cannabis in 1954, but the country is known as one of the world’s largest illicit producers; the industry provides a livelihood for some 60,000 families (according to low estimates). In a Reuters interview, one farmer communicated the hope that legalization could remove the “wall of fear” surrounding cultivators caught between poverty, traffickers, and the law.
Juul Labs has agreed to pay North Carolina $40 million to settle the first of over 2000 lawsuits brought by states and localities claiming the e-cigarette company’s marketing practices fueled widespread addiction to nicotine among young people and created a new public health problem. Juul reached the settlement deal without admitting to the allegations, stating how this was in step with their “ongoing effort to reset our company and its relationship with our stakeholders, as we continue to combat underage usage and advance the opportunity for harm reduction for adult smokers.” Money talks, Juul!
Humble Bloom announces not one, but two upcoming IRL experiences at The William Vale hotel in Brooklyn, NY. The two-part summer series launches on Wednesday, July 21, with a consumption-friendly comedy and dance night amongst the “rolling hills of Vale Park.” RSVP here.
In Oregon, House Bill 3112, known as the Equity Investment Act and designed to fund “economic justice and self-determination for Black, Indigenous, and Latinx Oregonians through cannabis tax revenue,” failed to pass this session. It included auto-expungement elements and would have established equity licenses, which do not yet exist in the state. A press email from OR’s Cannabis Equity PAC announced their next steps:
“We will continue lobbying for passage of an economic justice bill, creating a cannabis equity license program, and automatic expungement for cannabis possession crimes. With your support, we’ll continue to be what community looks like. Next session, we call Oregon legislators to a higher set of values. We certainly have higher ideals for what democracy looks like.”
An Oregon omnibus cannabis bill relating to regulatory processes bill did get signed into law this session. State Bill 408 reforms compliance practices using a more collaborative approach, streamlining communication requirements before the regulatory agency delays the processing, approval, or denial of a license application. It also simplifies over-complicated delivery documentation and requires the industry to reduce its reliance on single-use plastic. That’s all great, but these things should’ve been written into the original law. Let this be a shining example of how worthwhile it can be to do the work to compose smarter laws rather than rush legalization. If Oregon’s original regulations didn’t need so much work, that lobbying bandwidth could’ve been spent on passing the equity bill.
Chicago-based cannabis business accelerator Cognitive Harmony Technologies is offering $20,000 grants to five minority-run start-ups in New Jersey. The goal is to “enable applicants who have been negatively impacted by the War on Drugs to earn top scores and win New Jersey state cannabis licenses.” Deadline to apply is July 19 by 11:59 p.m.
New cannabis brand Union Electric launched their fundraising campaign via Republic on June 29, and, as of writing this Report, they’ve raised $53,165 from 86 investors, 211% of their minimum goal. They went the Regulation CF route, using an exemption that allows anyone to invest in early-stage companies for as little as $100. Peruse the “Discussion” thread on their page for a fascinating conversation on assessing cannabis company valuations (as well as common investor concerns). You might recall Republic coming up in a past newsletter with Juna CBD—Juna ended up raising over $375k through the site.
Kudos to Pure Beauty for a clever twist on a pack of papers: their latest paper pack features a 16.4-foot roll of paper, allowing you to cut your paper to size each time. As someone who often rips off a ⅕ of a standard paper for my solo joints, I appreciate that waste-free versatility, not to mention the very cute crutches with the PB eyeballs. 👀
Here’s to a smooth, evenly burning week ahead,