Connecting the Dots with Nikki Lawley: how censorship is hurting medical cannabis patients

nikki lawley cannabis censorship

Support for cannabis reform is at an all-time high. The federal government is even considering shifting its stance on the plant. But even with all the acceptance, information about the plant is still being suppressed—especially on social media platforms (where seemingly everyone nowadays gets their news and information).

Social media has been silencing my voice and that of many others for the past several years. However, lately, cannabis censorship has gotten significantly worse, especially on all Meta platforms (Facebook, Instagram) and even LinkedIn! I am a medical patient and advocate. I am doing all I can to help remove the stigma, educate people, and, most importantly, help create an equal and diverse industry that focuses on the benefits of the plant.

What happens? It’s called shadow banning or deactivating your page or your profile, literally shutting off your voice to your followers and those who are looking for real education.

RELATED: Connecting the Dots with Nikki Lawley: the state’s role in cannabis education

An all too common issue

I have done so much to try and mitigate this problem. I have tried everything from eliminating hashtags to never using the terms cannabis, marijuana, or even hemp. I have tried silly misspellings of the word cannabis and also any graphic; I try even to eliminate any leaves or anything that depicts the plant. I know I am not alone in this frustration. I recognize much more influential accounts being shut down, shadow banned or altogether deleted. This isn’t just a Nikki Lawley problem. This is a censorship problem and it is obstructing our freedom of speech.

Meta, TikTok, and LinkedIn are the most popular social platforms. I am frustrated because how do the canna-curious find quality information? How do they get their questions answered and true resources given on how to use cannabis for their symptoms? What can we do as an industry to change this?

I know specific organizations, such as the New York State Office of Cannabis Management, have a political liaison at Meta that prevents them from being shadow-banned. How do quality educators and those who provide good information get the same respect and have their posts published and shared? 

My engagement on all platforms has plummeted to the point of “Why bother?” I am considered influential and a voice in the industry. If my content can’t get published, that is very indicative of the current restrictions on social media. I can only imagine how stressful and much of a problem it is for people just looking for education. I do not sell anything. I do not share cannabis pictures. I share educational materials and my experience of going from healthcare provider to patient to advocate—that’s all!

Where to go from here

LinkedIn used to be very welcoming of cannabis content; however, they are becoming less and less friendly to the industry. Many small apps out there are trying to make an impact, but if no one knows they exist, it doesn’t solve the problem. There are web-based apps such as Leafwire, an app called CanMar, and groups that have apps they use. 

For example, the Cannabis Nurse Network has a platform for their members on the Mighty platform, but these are not mainstream. Not many people participate in them actively and it is a struggle to gain any traction on them. The Cannected TV streaming channel is out there as well. However, this is not where the canna-curious will be looking for information. 

How do we take cannabis mainstream to the point where, instead of all the negative propaganda being shared, we collectively change the narrative? How do we get TimeNewsweek, People magazine, 60 Minutes, and all of the major mainstream outlets to take an interest in cannabis? There is so much misunderstanding and misinformation out there. We have to change. It cannot do this alone! I genuinely believe we need a committee of experts that can literally make this a priority. Many PR companies are doing what they can, but they, too, are being shadow-banned! I don’t have all the answers, guys. I just know cannabis connects my dots, and I want to help other people connect theirs!

*This article was submitted by a guest contributor to GreenState. The author is solely responsible for the content.

nikki lawley

Nikki Lawley is a patient advocate, speaker, and founder of Nikki and the Plant. She personally discovered cannabis as medicine after suffering a life-changing injury while working as a pediatric nurse. Nikki resides in Buffalo, NY.