Ever heard of the documentaries ‘Weed the People’ and ‘Mary Janes: The Women of Weed?’ You may answer yes if you work in the cannabis industry, but ask an average person on the street and they are much more likely to say no.
Two prominent cannabis filmmakers, Windy Borman and Abby Epstein, allege that various prominent social media channels, websites, and publications are actively pursuing cannabis censorship, thus limiting the reach of advertising for their films. Borman and Epstein say they’ve both seen major roadblocks in the production and publicity of their films due to the stigma that still surrounds cannabis.
Borman, the creator of ‘Mary Janes: The Women of Weed’ specifically pointed out Facebook, which announced back in October they would begin allowing cannabis advertising, negatively impacted ticket sales at the film’s premiere due to its actions. Despite this, Facebook declined to run advertising for her film because it related to issues of “politics and national importance.” Borman was eventually able to make it so a limited number of her ads ran, but the way the algorithm approved or denied cannabis advertising appeared to be almost random, and biased against advertising that wasn’t slathered with celebrities or contained purely positive messages about marijuana.
“As a journalist, the fact that we’re being censored by a platform that exists in our own country is deeply disturbing to me,” Borman told to Forbes, “As a filmmaker, one irony is I feel sure that ads for screenings of a documentary I could make about tobacco, sugar, the opioid crisis — any of those other big things, which are more harmful than cannabis — would get through the algorithms.”
Meanwhile, Epstein, whose film ‘Weed the People,’ explores cannabis use as a treatment for severe diseases in children, was confronted by many barriers from Facebook, Eventbrite, an unnamed streaming service, and even the New York Times. She thinks using the word ‘weed’ in the title may have riled stigma against the plant.
She experienced the same situation decades ago with another controversial word for the time.
"I was the director of the original ‘The Vagina Monologues’ in New York City. The New York Times would not run the ads, and look how that word has broken through," said Epstein.