Tell Facebook to Stop Censoring MarijuanaFacebook is censoring marijuana.

Just last week, the social networking giant abruptly changed its policies and decided to ban images of marijuana leaves from ads, claiming pictures of the plant promote “tobacco products.”

Just Say Now, our campaign for marijuana legalization with Students for Sensible Drug Policy, ran ads promoting our campaign that showed our logo, which uses a marijuana leaf. Despite the ad running more than 38 million times, Facebook flip-flopped and started censoring our ads and our political speech.

We’re fighting back against Facebook’s censorhip with a massive campaign to call out the social networking site.

Sign our petition to Facebook to protest censoring marijuana as political speech. We’ll send the petition to Facebook and call attention to the popular support for opening a discussion about our country’s failed drug policies.

Ryan Grim at Huffington Post has more on the story:

For a typical college student, if it didn’t happen on Facebook, it didn’t happen. That gives the social networking behemoth an out-sized influence on the confines of political debate, if that debate falls outside what Facebook deems acceptable discourse.

Proponents of marijuana legalization, which is on the California ballot in 2010, have hit a Facebook wall in their effort to grow an online campaign to rethink the nation’s pot laws. Facebook initially accepted ads from the group Just Say Now, running them from August 7 to August 16, generating 38 million impressions and helping the group’s fan page grow to over 6,000 members. But then they were abruptly removed.

Adam Noyes, a spokesman for Facebook, said that the problem was the pot leaf. “It would be fine to note that you were informed by Facebook that the image in question was no long[er] acceptable for use in Facebook ads. The image of a pot leaf is classified with all smoking products and therefore is not acceptable under our policies,” he told the group in an email, which was provided to HuffPost.

Just what kind of devious, subversive ad ran 38 million times on Facebook? See for yourself. These are the ads Facebook saw fit to censor:

Ad banned by Facebook
Ad banned by FacebookAd banned by Facebook

Two of the ads say “End the war on marijuana,” asking Facebook users to “Sign the petition to President Obama to support states’ rights to legalize marijuana. Another says “Legalize marijuana” and “It’s time to Just Say now to marijuana legalization. Sign up to show your support.” All three ads use variations of the Just Say Now logo with a pot leaf.

As Ryan Grim notes, we’re not promoting “smoking products.” Facebook’s ad policies specifically prohibit “tobacco products,” and have guidelines for how to advertise alcohol on the site (you can show alcohol products, but can’t encourage intoxication).

We’re not running ads encouraging Facebook users to smoke pot, tobacco, or to drink alcohol. We are clearly advocating for a political issue that will be voted on in Facebook’s home state in less than three months. If we can’t use the most recognizable image to organize supporters in favor of marijuana legalization, it’s essentially like being banned from showing our candidate’s face in an election.

Marijuana legalization isn’t a fringe issue: our campaign has the support of law enforcement like former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper, former Reagan Assistant Deputy Attorney General Bruce Fein, and people all across the political spectrum.

Facebook’s censorship of this political issue only advances the failed drug policies of our country by blocking an open discussion of these critical issues. Marijuana legalization on the move, but Facebook wants to block the issue.

Jordan Marks, of the Young America’s Foundation and a member of Just Say Now’s advisory board, summed up Facebook’s censorship best:

“If Facebook censorship policies continue to reflect those of our our government by suppressing freedom of speech then they won’t have to wait until Election Day to be voted obsolete,” said Marks.

Aaron Houston, also of Just Say Now and Students for Sensible Drug Policy, echoed those sentiments:

“Facebook’s business will suffer if they don’t reverse this decision” says Aaron Houston, Executive Director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, whose organization has over 150 chapters on campuses across the country.  “We’re way beyond reefer madness and censorship. Facebook should get with the times.”
Fight back against Facebook’s censorship: sign our petition to Facebook to stop censoring marijuana as political speech.

In addition to fighting back with this petition, we’re going around Facebook by running ads on hundreds of political blogs

Jeff Cosgrove of Common Sense Media placed the ads on blogs from across the political spectrum.  “Blogs from both the right and the left were delighted to accept the ads” says Cosgrove.  The ads will begin running today on sites including:  Reason, The Nation, The New Republic, Human Events, MyDD, Red State, Antiwar, Drug War Rant, The Young Turks, Pam’s House Blend, Stop The Drug War, The Daily Paul,  Lew Rockwell, Think Progress and AmericaBlog.