In the midst of their most controversial year yet, YouTube has taken down the channels of numerous cannabis-themed content creators, leaving those remaining puzzled as to what standards are actually being enforced.
The recent wave of channel shut-downs was preceded by warnings from YouTube, often to channels that had no problems for years. One of the largest cannabis channels that YouTube recently shuttered belonged to frequent Cannabis Now contributor Coral Reefer.
Reefer’s channel had been on YouTube for eight years as of this April. Over that time, she had amassed over 119,000 subscribers, a reputable number for a channel covering any subject matter. She had posted nearly 1000 videos to the page. Her videos had surpassed over 10,000,000 views.
The video blogger was first quick to remind everyone this cannabis censorship isn’t a problem exclusive to YouTube.
“Social media has been seeing a struggle with cannabis content in recent years,” she said. “Facebook is taking down posts, we’ve seen Instagram closing accounts. I do think it’s all linked. YouTube wasn’t out of the blue with this.”
YouTube faced a major public reckoning after one of the platform’s stars, Logan Paul, traveled to Japan’s Aokigahara forest, otherwise known as the “Suicide Forest,” and released footage of someone who had taken their life still hanging from a tree. Reefer said the fallout was heavy after advertisers began leaving the YouTube platform in response to the incident.
“YouTube has reacted by trying to provide advertiser-friendly content, but in the process destroyed the community they built,” she said.
As for the question of if other social media entities will follow in YouTube’s footsteps to protect their bottom line, Reefer believes there’s a good chance.
“Yeah, I think the message YouTube is sending by including cannabis content in their removal of what’s considered not advertiser-friendly is sending a really loud message to other social media networks,” she said.
The long-time video creator says that it can feel like a very local issue to her, given that she lives in California, near where YouTube is headquartered but reminds everyone that the takedowns have included content creators across Europe and Canada also. Things get even fuzzier with those takedowns, because it leads to discussions of whether doing something like linking to an online seed bank is even a crime.
Reefer’s first strike came years ago when she mentioned she was not protected by her medical marijuana recommendation because she was using marijuana on federal lands. But even that takedown was eventually rescinded and the video returned to the page. Recently she was hit with a strike on a video around making cannabis butter. She appealed, but never heard back from YouTube.
“That made me nervous,” she said. “Some people heard back right away and had their videos restored and that was my experience years ago. This time they were just silent during my appeal until ultimately my channel was deleted last week.”
The letter informing Reefer of the takedown claimed severe violations, but in fact, her original infraction had been rescinded and an official answer had never been given in regards to the strike two appeal. She is now waiting to see if that second appeal comes back before attempting to appeal the takedown of the account itself.
Another large channel hit belonged to Green Flower Media. “They flagged us [three times] in a matter of days,” said CEO Max Simon.
Green Flower Media has been on YouTube for four years, racking up 50,000 subscribers. In that time, their educational videos had been viewed around four million times.
“We were doing cannabis education. Dosing, using cannabis for ailments, delivery methods, all educational stuff,” said Simon.
Up until a couple weeks ago, Green Flower had a clean record on YouTube. They got their first strike over a video explaining the technology behind the dosist vaporizer pen. Because they’d inadvertently done a product profile on a vape pen, they conceded that one to YouTube. Two days later, they received their next strike and the account was closed the following day.
“Out of nowhere,” said Simon. “And again, our channel is expert-based cannabis knowledge. We’re not selling, we’re not pitching and we’re not directing people to buy products. We’re educating safe, responsible and effective cannabis use.”
Simon was also perplexed how some major cannabis brands had missed the ax.
Green Flower is uniquely situated in they had the plan to launch their free web platform next week for months. It will host all of their video content.
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