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Anti-Pot Author Alex Berenson Gets Permanent Twitter Ban

terry roston

Alex Berenson—author of Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence—received a permanent suspension from microblogging platform Twitter for spreading misinformation. While Berenson is known for his vocal opposition to cannabis legalization, this time, he was punished for spreading false information about COVID-19.

On his Substack page, Berenson posted a brief message, titled, “Goodbye Twitter” with a screenshot of his original tweet that led to his suspension. Berenson’s tweet that triggered the ban claimed that COVID-19 vaccines do not work. “It doesn’t stop infection. Or transmission,” Berenson tweeted. “Don’t think of it as a vaccine.”

Twitter officials believe that Berenson can’t be trusted to tell the truth, and that the accumulation of misleading tweets justifies a suspension.

“The account you referenced has been permanently suspended for repeated violations of our COVID-19 misinformation rules,” a Twitter spokesperson told Fox News in response to an inquiry on August 28.

“The first four states to legalize—Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington—have seen sharp increases in murders and aggravated assaults since 2014, according to reports from the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” Berenson wrote in a New York Times op-ed. “Police reports and news articles show a clear link to cannabis in many cases.” Berenson was a former employee of the New York Times several years prior.

Berenson’s op-ed was published at the time of the release of Tell Your Children, his book that attempts to link violence with cannabis use. One night, Berenson’s wife Jacqueline, remembered a case in which a man “cut up his grandmother or set fire to his apartment.” Later Jacqueline wrote, “Of course he was high, been smoking pot his whole life.”

Berenson’s New York Times op-ed and book were so misleading, that two leading psychologists felt compelled to debunk the article in The Guardian.

Carl L Hart is the chairman and Ziff professor of psychology and psychiatry at Columbia University and author of High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery that Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society. Charles Ksir is professor emeritus of psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Wyoming and author of Drugs, Society and Human Behavior.

“Back in the 1930s, when there were virtually no scientific data on marijuana, ignorant and racist officials publicized exaggerated anecdotal accounts of its harms and were believed,” the authors wrote. “Almost 90 years and hundreds of studies later, there is no excuse for these exaggerations or the inappropriate conclusions drawn by Berenson.”

Alex Berenson on Censorship

This is by no means the first time a publisher or platform has banned Berenson for the spread of misinformation. Amazon denied taking part in a few of his booklets. Berenson’s former employer The New York Times declined to review his latest novel. In a December op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Berenson warned that the COVID-19 pandemic had ushered in “a new age of censorship and suppression.”

In an op-ed in Reason, the writer explained that while Berenson tried to scare people from pot, and vastly underestimated the death toll of COVID-19, it was a mistake to ban Berenson permanently from Twitter. Banning him from Twitter may only make things worse. The implications of banning one person could be extended to another.

The writer explained that if anything, Berenson will just profit more from his “martydrom” from Twitter. “COVID-19 has allowed Berenson to fully embrace his role as a purveyor of delusions,” the article reads, but a ban will only fuel the fire of opposition to those opinions. 

Berenson’s ban got political very quickly. “I don’t know Berenson,” Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tweeted. “But all the Leftie Brown Shirts cheering his being banned—you are the problem. You’re supporting authoritarian billionaires’ arbitrary censorship. & you are contributing to so many people’s distrust of Covid info—by silencing dissent, many are skeptical.”

It’s important to note that there are vastly different opinions of Berenson. Senator Ron Johnson (R–Wisconsin) called him a “courageous voice of reason” and “a valuable counter-perspective.”

The post Anti-Pot Author Alex Berenson Gets Permanent Twitter Ban appeared first on High Times.

Underground Dispensary
Author: Benjamin M. Adams

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Judge Rules Texas Ban on Smokable Hemp Unconstitutional

terry roston

Texans will have the ability to legally manufacture smokable hemp products after all. A judge in the Travis County District Court in Texas ruled that a ban on smokable hemp in the state is unconstitutional—siding with several hemp companies that filed a lawsuit, challenging the 2019 ban on smokable hemp products passed by Texas lawmakers.

Last year, four hemp businesses filed the lawsuit in a Travis County District Court against the Texas Department of State Health Services and its commissioner—John Hellerstedt. In the end, they prevailed. This follows a ruling last week that allows smokable hemp to be sold in Texas. With the latest ruling, smokable hemp products can also be manufactured in the state.

Judge Lora Livingston of the 261st District Court sent a letter dated August 23 with her ruling to toss out the ban in the case Crown Distributing LLC, et al. v. Texas Department of State Health Services, et al. The judge indicated in the letter that a final judgment should be prepared and submitted for her signature soon.

In the ruling, Judge Livingston ruled that Section 443.204(4) of the Texas Health and Safety Code and Section 122.301(b) of the Texas Agriculture Code violate the Texas Constitution.

Section 443.204(4) of the Health and Safety code reads “the processing or manufacturing of a consumable hemp product for smoking is prohibited.” Section 122.301(b) of the Agriculture Code clarifies that a state agency “may not authorize a person to manufacture a product containing hemp for smoking.”

Judge Livingston ruled that “25 Texas Administrative Code Section 300.104 is invalid in its entirety.” Section 300.104 regards the manufacturing and sale of hemp, specifically.

The judge also granted a permanent injunction against the Texas Department of State Health Services from enforcing the ban via the sections above.

According to locals, the ban didn’t apply to using smokable hemp—only manufacturing it—so Texas residents were routinely crossing state lines or going online to buy it.

Several months ago, the Dallas Observer reported that Texas law enforcement officers keep confiscated hemp-derived products in general, which are legal at the federal level under the 2018 Farm Bill. 

The Hemp Industry Rejoices Ban Lift on Smokable Hemp

Hemp industry insiders across the board were thrilled with the latest legal curveball—considering the vast potential of hemp cigarettes and similar products. As more people become interested in smoking cannabis during the day without it impacting workflow and motor skills, hemp cigarette products are booming.

Smokable hemp products are frequently a hot topic among opponents to cannabis reform because they are almost indistinguishable from cannabis products. They are favored by some consumers because they offer fast delivery of hemp-derived CBD. Due to their popularity, smokable hemp-derived CBD products represent a significant share of the overall CBD market.

“Today’s ruling is a major win for Texas’ hemp industry, and may set a new standard in similar cases across the country,” President of Texas Hemp Growers Zachary Maxwell said in a release. “The attorneys behind the Texas Hemp Legal Defense Fund fought hard, brought fact-based arguments to the courtroom and proved the undeniable financial harm caused by this cavalier ban.”

Hemp Industry Daily called it a “watershed decision” that unlocks Texas to a hemp market that could potentially generate $400 million in annual sales by 2025.

Several other states are moving in the same direction. A few years ago, a judge in Indiana also ruled that banning smokable hemp was unconstitutional. Earlier this year, a similar bill passed in Louisiana, allowing smokable forms of cannabis.

The post Judge Rules Texas Ban on Smokable Hemp Unconstitutional appeared first on High Times.

Underground Dispensary
Author: Benjamin M. Adams

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Instagram Targets Cannabis-Related Social Media Accounts

terry roston

Photo-based social media giant Instagram regularly takes action against cannabis-related accounts for violating the terms of service (TOS). Often enough, the reason behind a ban is often unclear to the accounts that are affected—which leads to detrimental loss in engagement for up-and-coming cannabis businesses. 

Instagram has an estimated 1 billion monthly active users since its initial release back in 2010. Any disruption to a thriving Instagram account, especially for cannabis-related accounts, can have devastating effects from a marketing perspective. In most cases, a violation of the TOS can be walked back through a series of steps, as detailed by marketing expert Colin Bambury. Bambury has encountered Instagram suspensions numerous times and wrote up a guide on his website Adcann to help others get their accounts reinstated.

“Social media is an important tool for marketers in any space. It allows brands to create connections and communicate with current and potential consumers anytime, anywhere,” Bambury writes. “With COVID-era lockdowns, consumers are staying inside and scrolling through social platforms more than ever, increasing the importance of digital advertising and native content creation. The cannabis industry is no exception—with many brands, retailers, producers, and accessory purveyors utilizing platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Snapchat.”

Bambury lists that Instagram and Facebook’s policies around “drugs and drug-related products” include ads that don’t promote the sale or use of “illegal, prescription or recreational drugs,” avoiding the use of images related images such as bongs or rolling papers, avoiding any use of images of a recreational drug itself, and avoiding images specifically showcasing recreational or medical cannabis. 

“Although Facebook acknowledges that cannabis can be both ‘recreational’ and ‘medical,’ implying that the substance is regulated and has medicinal value, their official website continues to communicate a zero-tolerance policy on ‘marijuana,’” he wrote in regard to the company’s image policies. “This poses a large problem for cannabis producers, brands, retailers, accessory producers, and marketing agencies looking to connect with consumers.”

On Instagram specifically, same-topic competition can also prove to be a nuisance. “Instagram will frequently prioritize removing content that is reported—which means that ‘haters’ and unethical competitors can, unfortunately, conspire to potentially have your page taken down,” he added.

“Up until recently, that was the main cause of content and account removal. However, in late 2020, Instagram and Facebook made an observable change to their AI restricted content detection, as cannabis accounts and photos were targeted to the extreme. If you rack up enough posts that violate IG’s community guidelines, your account will likely be disabled,” Bambury concluded.

Unfortunately, even adhering to these rules and policies has resulted in banned accounts on Instagram and Facebook. In June, Cannaclusive’s Instagram account was banned for the first time since the creation of those accounts in 2017—with Director of National Projects and Social Media Kassia Graham expressing her confusion about why the account was banned in the first place. She told Yahoo! Finance that it might have been because of a post that garnered a large amount of popularity, or that maybe it was because they tagged other Instagram accounts that had recently run into issues with Instagram violations.

Maria Brasco, social media manager at MATTIO Communications shared that even implementing her own strict rules on what to avoid posting, there doesn’t seem to be any logic behind Instagram’s banning rules. “Accounts that err on the side of caution are being penalized, while their industry colleagues are blatantly ignoring the rules, and nothing happens,” she told High Times

There isn’t a clear solution in how to 100 percent protect a cannabis-related Instagram account right now. Until federal legalization opens up new doors for issues like this, bans will remain commonplace—but in the meantime, those who manage cannabis accounts will benefit from becoming familiar with the account recovery process.

The post Instagram Targets Cannabis-Related Social Media Accounts appeared first on High Times.

Underground Dispensary
Author: Nicole Potter

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