How to Safely Post Cannabis Content on Instagram in 2023
Are you a brand or content creator that posts about cannabis, marijuana, CBD, hemp, Instagram? Have you struggled with account reach, community guidelines violations and shadowbans?
Cannamom Content Creator Takes on the Instagram Algorithm
I am Bianca Snyder, the owner of SOCIETY’s Plant and also the woman behind High Society Mama on social media. I started my Instagram account in 2018 with the intent to connect with moms to introduce them to the benefits of cannabis and help normalize cannabis consumption for mothers. Now, I have refined my purpose for cannabis content creation to inspire mothers to be confident in their choice to use cannabis. I have experienced all the ups and downs of creating cannabis content on social media and would like to help others to find success in their efforts as well. I will continue to update this article with my findings and also use this as a reference tool for the affiliates of SOCIETY’s Plant to safely learn how to share what they love about our products on social media, without getting the smackdown.
Instagram Creator Tools to Fix Cannabis Violations
Good news: Instagram will now tell creators the reasons why no one is seeing their content (HINT: it is because your content “may not follow guidelines for Regulated Goods”).
Instagram is one of the strongest forces in the social media landscape and this platform is a valuable asset to the cannabis community that is working to normalize the consumption of cannabis and help to both educate and attract new consumers to the benefits of this wonderful plant. Instagram’s new transparency tools allow creators to understand why their content is being censored and how they can adapt their content to meet the Community Guidelines of Instagram through the review process and recommendation algorithms. This shows us that:
INSTAGRAM SHADOWBANS FOR CANNABIS CONTENT ARE REAL
And, fortunately, now it shows us exactly which posts are causing the shadowban.
What is a shadowban on Instagram?
A shadowban is when Instagram restricts or blocks a user’s content from its followers’ view & suggested pages. A Forbes article on how to avoid a shadowban for cannabis content in 2021 said, “Once shadowbanned, it is likely you would notice reduced reach and reduced interaction. You won’t receive a formal notification when you’ve been shadowbanned, it is your content being “secretly” restricted. It’s the algorithm slapping you on the wrist. The worse case scenario is having a post deleted for going against Community Guidelines. If it happens enough times, you run the risk of getting your entire account permanently deleted.”
Fast forward to 2023, and now Instagram creators can now see whether their content is adhering to community guidelines which also tells you if your content can be recommended to more users. The newly created Transparency Center is Meta’s hub for addressing how they handle questionable content. This “transparency” allows Creators to monitor the account status of their account, reviewing whether it is at risk of being taken down. Instagram Transparency aims to keep creators aware of whether their content violates community guidelines.
Haters are NOT Reporting You - Blame Instagram & Meta
I frequently hear people complain that "the haters are reporting my account". While, yes, it is possible that you were reported (especially if you are in a cyber fight with someone), it is statistically, significantly more likely that the dirty work of a violation came from Meta. This data came from Meta's Community Guidelines Report in the Restricted Goods section. Almost 100% of the content that was actioned for restricted goods, happened because the Meta AI found it, not because people reported it.
Recommendation of Cannabis Content on Instagram
The biggest hurdle of cannabis content creation comes down to following the community guidelines for cannabis so that your posts can be recommended on Instagram. This is where Instagram’s vague guidelines (rules), ability to distribute content and intent to keep the community safe are a challenging intersection to navigate. When your account is in the good graces of Instagram, the content will be seen in a variety of ways such as the Explore page, Reels, and the Feed Recommendation tab. This is the key to the castle as far as getting your content in front of new audiences. However, the majority of cannabis content does not make it to these areas, much to the dismay of the people doing the hard work on their content. The question of “am I shadowbanned” and “why did my account get taken down” has long been a mystery for cannabis content creators on Instagram, but the new Instagram Transparency Tools allow creators to understand which content is causing the account to not be suitable for distribution. These new tools are intended for Meta to help creators to understand the process, and aid users in learning how content is reviewed and chosen for enhanced distribution or “recommendation”.
Account Status Recommendation Guidelines Violation
If a certain post has been flagged or censored (essentially causing a shadowban), then creators can see exactly which post is causing this flag. Creators then have the opportunity to FIX the post and then appeal the decision within the app. This sends the content back for an additional review and users will receive a notification when the internal team has come to another decision. In this article, we will go over everything that we have learned in 2023 about HOW TO FIX the post, in order to have a successful “disagree with this decision” - in order to return your account to be in the good graces of the Instagram Algorithm.
The below image does indicate that after the Account Status tool was rolled out in late 2022, this allowed an uptick in content getting restored. This is a positive sign, but by reading this post we should all be able to prevent content from being taken down in the first place!
The Account Status tool allows creators to uncover why their content has been censored and what they can do to make it more suitable for general viewers. Currently, it is still quite ambiguous as to exactly what Instagram believes MAY be a violation of the guidelines on regulated goods, but we are working through different theories and will continue to update this article and the SOCIETY’s Plant Affiliates, with any new findings.
Instagram Account Status for Regulated Goods: Marijuana
The Account Status tool acts as the hub for Recommendation Guidelines and Community Guidelines for the status of your account. This tool allows users to see if their account is at risk of being disabled due to inappropriate content such as content that “may go against community guidelines” to give you the opportunity to change it. The Account Status also shows the Community Guideline strikes, to warn of the possibility of losing the account in the future.
What is great about the Recommendation Guidelines section of the Account Status is that if a creator feels that this decision is incorrect, they can request another review to help revive their content and return their account to good standing. Please note: we recommend that you follow the outlined protocol, discussed below, prior to disagreeing with the decision, so that the review is successful.
Instagram’s transparency tools give a little bit of insight into the phenomenon of shadowbanning, and it certainly dispels a few theories that surround it. With this new information, cannabis creators can work to redefine their content strategy to operate within the guidelines and end the frustrations of account bans that have previously been so ominous. This tool should be regularly monitored to ensure that the content you are working hard to create is seen and recommended to current followers and also help your content to be seen by potential new followers. It also allows you the chance to resolve any issues that arise from mistakes to previously posted content.
Can you post smoking on Instagram in 2023?
A Bloomberg article titled: Instagram is the New Marijuana Dealer for Young People received the following email statement from Meta spokesperson, Rachel Hamrick, “We prohibit content — both in ads and organically on pages — that promotes the buying and selling of drugs, including marijuana, and remove it whenever we find it.” Instagram's terms of service are clear: No companies or creators can post about selling cannabis, link to an e-commerce site that sells cannabis, nor do marketing of products. Instagram strictly enforces these rules. Which leads to the question of whether a post is actually about SELLING or MARKETING of marijuana products or if a post is educational or even just for the fun of sharing about it. It does not seem that the AI that is determining these posts has the capacity to make this distinction.
Instagram Community Guidelines for Regulate Goods
It is interesting to look at the guidelines for Regulated Goods because out of every single regulated good outlined by Meta, goes into much more detail as to how to follow the guidelines, except fo marijuana guidelines, which are the most ambiguous.
Instagram Marijuana Community Guidelines:
Content that attempts to buy, sell, trade, donate or gift or asks for marijuana.
Instagram Entheogens Community Guidelines:
- Content that attempts to buy, sell, trade, donate or gift or asks for entheogens.
- Note: Debating or advocating for the legality or discussing scientific or medical merits of entheogens is allowed.
Instagram Non-Medical Drugs Guidelines (including drugs or substances that are not being used for an intended medical purpose or are used recreationally to achieve an altered mental state.):
- Attempts to buy, sell, trade, co-ordinate the trade of, donate, gift or asks for non-medical drugs.
- Admits to buying, trading or co-ordinating the trade of non-medical drugs by the poster of the content by themselves or through others.
- Admits to personal use without acknowledgment of or reference to recovery, treatment, or other assistance to combat usage. This content may not speak positively about, encourage use of, coordinate or provide instructions to make or use non-medical drugs.
- Coordinates or promotes (by which we mean speaks positively about, encourages the use of, or provides instructions to use or make) non-medical drugs.
Pharmaceutical Drugs Guidelines (drugs that require a prescription or medical professionals to administer)
- Attempts to buy, sell or trade pharmaceutical drugs except when:
- Listing the price of vaccines in an explicit education or discussion context.
- Offering delivery when posted by legitimate healthcare e-commerce businesses.
- Attempts to donate or gift pharmaceutical drugs
- Asks for pharmaceutical drugs except when content discusses the affordability, accessibility or efficacy of pharmaceutical drugs in a medical context
Plant Medicine References on Instagram
It is important to note that while many use the term “plant medicine” with the intent to disguise the word cannabis in an approachable and eloquent manner, this term could possibly work against you for “maybe” violating the “Non-Medical Drugs” guidelines. This has not been confirmed, it is just one of the many theories around what constitutes the Regulated Goods Community Guidelines.
ACCOUNT STATUS Shows Recommendation & Community Guidelines
If you feel that your account is not getting the reach that it once did then you could be failing to meet Instagram's Community Guidelines and your account could be NOT recommended in the Explore, Reels, and Feed Recommendations. The Account Status tool indicates if your content is eligible to be recommended by its various AI algorithms and offers advice (although very ambiguous) on how to resolve any issues. Here are the steps to check your status:
How to check your Account Status on Instagram:
Click the hamburger menu
➡️Go to SETTINGS
➡️Click ACCOUNT then
➡️ ACCOUNT SETTINGS
We are conducting ongoing research to nail down the drivers of these issues. You will find all the current findings in this article, but if you would like help reviewing your account status or are hitting a roadblock even after making the changes outlined here, then screenshot the LIST of recommendation guidelines violations and send it as a DM to @HighSocietyofMamas. We will review it and give feedback to help you to resolve the issues. If your situation is unique, then it helps aid us in our findings of what is allowed and what content is banned.
2023 Instagram Community Guidelines for Cannabis
A lot has changed on Instagram through the years for those posting about cannabis. The last two years have been especially rough with more accounts getting taken down and enhanced censorship of accounts. Good news is that now we are shown EXACTLY what is causing the ominous shadowban!
Instagram Community Guidelines are a BITCH, Literally!
When Instagram shows a post that “May violate community guidelines” it will cause your account to not be recommended. While Instagram does tell you the community guidelines violation that you MAYBE violated (more than likely it is Regulated Goods for the promotion, depiction of or sale of marijuana), it is not specified as to exactly WHAT about that post is causing the violation. This is where we have decided that Instagram Community Guidelines are a BITCH, literally! We have determined that it is either the: bio, image, text, cover on reel (or often lack thereof) or hashtags - causing the violation.
B - Bio content
I - Image (it’s best is to always post carousels not a single photo)
T - Text in caption and native IG text written on Reels
C - Cover photo (you should ALWAYS add one from camera roll)
H - Hashtags - just say no them, all of them!
It is important to note that what might cause a recommendation violation on one account does not necessarily mean it is a recommendation violation on every account. It seems each account has its own unique level of scrutiny based on the history of the account. It is for this reason that it is important to use caution in what you are posting in order to continue to follow the community guidelines to the best of your ability.
Accounts are regularly scanned to detect violations. This means that it is possible to resolve some recommendation guidelines violations and then immediately be presented with a new list of recommendation guideline violations! This can be frustrating, but it is the process you have to go through to get the account back into good standing. The Account Status Recommendation Guidelines will show a maximum of 5 possible violations at a time. Therefore, if your account has 15 violations, then you will go through this process 3 times before the account can once again be recommended. It is also possible for a post to get a recommendation violation that you resolve and then a few weeks later in a future scan the AI detects another “may violate community guidelines” and put the SAME POST back on to the list!
Let’s go over each item that makes the COMMUNITY GUIDELINES on Instagram, a BITCH!
Instagram BIO Community Guidelines Violation
The use of certain words in the account bio text might trigger a red flag. The terms most frequently used in bio that could cause a violation are: canna, cannabis, hemp, CBD, weed, and marijuana. I also believe that writing: nothing for sale - could be attracting attention to your account in an unfavorable way.
Solution to Cannabis Violation in Instagram BIO:
Remove all words that are directly referencing cannabis from your account bio and headline. I have not found any account that has had their bio flagged for using the words: cannamom. But if you come across this issue then please write to us to let us know!
Instagram IMAGE Community Guidelines Violation
Since Instagram started as a photo sharing app, their AI for detecting images is superior to their ability to detect violations in videos. It is still questionable as to what specific content on the images that it can detect but we are starting to see some trends in through the guidelines violations that we have seen. For example it can detect a clearly defined cannabis leaf, but in some situations where the leaf is hidden it might not pick it up. A nug shot from a certain angle or lighting might not be detected, while another photo of bud is flagged.
My suspicion is that Instagram photo AI can NOT read text on an image. I tested this theory with a still image post that read: “Turns out cannabis is not as scary of a drug as we were led to believe”. This image used the words: cannabis and drug, but did not get flagged for a violation. There is the chance that if a post does get flagged and it goes through a second review, where a human sees the post, then this causes a violation, but I have not personally encountered this situation yet.
Solution to Cannabis Violation in Instagram IMAGE:
The best action that you can take moving forward to remedy the possibility of an image recommendation guidelines violation, is to always post a carousel if you are including any cannabis related images. The benefit of posting a carousel is that in the Account Status Recommendation Guidelines, it will show the exact image in the carousel that is the violation. Even if the carousel is only of two photos, this means that if one photo gets flagged for a violation, then you can delete it without deleting the entire post. You can then follow the steps outlined below to delete the individual photo that is causing the violation.
Instagram TEXT Community Guidelines Violation
Scanning of native Instagram text is the most clear and straightforward way that Meta can catch community guideline violations for cannabis. This text includes: captions, live headlines and text written in the app for Reels. It is possible to add different characters or accents on letters to disguise the word in a way that Meta will not detect the real word, but readers can hopefully figure out what you are trying to say. This is one of the areas that are being consistently scanned and I believe that you could not have a violation on one day and then another day the scan detects something about the words or context of what you are saying that the AI flags as a possible violation.
Solution to Cannabis Violations in Instagram TEXT:
Cleaning up the text in your account is an easy and proactive approach to keeping your account in good standing. We have only seen posts get flagged for recommendation guidelines violations dating back to November 15th. If you are putting out cannabis content, then it is recommended that you:
📌 Go through all posts since November 15th and delete all of the following text from CAPTIONS to avoid any further violations as we move forward.
Avoid writing the following text in captions and in native text on Reels to avoid violations:
- Canna (also do not put canna + any words - best to use Cànna or some variation)
- CannaMom (change to something like: €ànnamom or CäñńàMom)
- Weed is questionable - to be safe: change to Wèëd or Weeed
- Delta8 Delta 8 Delta-8
The words: product, shop, sale, buy, purchase, giveaway - all allude to the “sale of regulated goods”. If you do not have any previous violations regarding the sale of regulated goods on your account then the use of any of these words might be no problem for you. However, if you have EVER been in Instagram Jail, then these are the words they are waiting for you to drop so they can throw you back in the slammer!
Hack for Cannabis Reels
If you don’t want to write in code words on your Reels, then this is the trick for you! Write the text on the video in an app outside of Instagram. This can be done in any video editing app, but here is the lazy hack…
Write the text in a note and screenshot the text you want to use, crop it down to just the text you want to show and to save it to photos. Then copy the photo from your photo album and then open the text “A” button on Instagram Reels and paste the text IMAGE onto the Reel. You can then adjust the time frame that the text image is shown on the Reel, but Instagram can not read the text the same way it could if it was typed into the app. Here is an example of a SOCIETY’s Plant Reel that used the Notes cut and paste trick. The words: hemp, CBD, THC, dispensary - could all be flagged for a violation, especially being an account that has had previous regulated goods violations. But, this post was cleared and continues to be recommended.
Instagram COVER PHOTO Community Guidelines Violation
The most common community guidelines violation for a Reel tends to be from simply NOT having a cover photo. This means that the cover image was selected by using the slider to find a snip of the video to use as the cover. Not having a cover photo selected from the camera roll, seems to open up the post to a different level of scrutiny.
Solution to Cannabis Violations in Instagram COVER PHOTO:
Since we’ve determined that Meta can NOT detect text on images, this also applies to cover photos. This means, it is an OPPORTUNITY to spell out in plain text - EXACTLY what you are wanting to say. Write cannabis, CBD, hemp, THC, marijuana, Delta8, SALE, giveaway…whatever you want. But, the cover photo is subject to the same scrutiny as a still image. This means that when you are trying to remedy a violation, then do not have any smoke, bud, pot leaf, paraphernalia or cannabis plant imagery on the cover photo.
Instagram HASHTAGS Community Guidelines Violation
Hashtags are used as a strategy to group your content into certain categories so that it is shown to the audience searching for that hashtag. But, in the instance of cannabis content, this can result in an undesirable outcome. If you use a hashtag that has content in it that has a lot of violations then you are essentially throwing your content into a pool of violations. It is like you are requesting the AI to come review your content.
Additionally large NON-cannabis related hashtags seem to also work against you. My hypothesis is that posts from accounts with previous violations who use large hashtags get more harshly scrutinized because Meta wants to keep the community safe, so it will scan the post to see if the post actually fits into the hashtag group. For example: #instagram or #LOVE get regularly reviewed to keep those hashtags groups from being filled with spam and guidelines violation posts that don't relate to the topic of the hashtag.
Solution to Cannabis Violations in Instagram HASHTAGS:
Moving forward - just say NO to hashtags. They are bound to get you in trouble and the risk is not worth the reward!
📌 Go through all posts since November 15th and delete ALL hashtags from CAPTIONS to avoid any further violations as you move forward.
These are examples of hashtags for cannabis content, that are bound to get you in trouble:
#cannabiscommunity #hemp #420…anything, just don’t write it. #cannabisculture #ouid #delta8 #weedporn #weedstagram #cannabiscures #cannabissociety #cannabisheals #hempmymedicine #liftedladies #womeninweed #cannabisphotography #plantmedicine #cannabislife #thc+(any words) #marijuana+(any words) #hempheals #smokeweedeveryday #cannabisoil #fueledbyTHC #cannabisdaily #dailydabs #cannabisindustry #successfulstoner #cannabisgrow #dankmemes #cannabismedicinal #dankdank #cannabislifestyle #cannabisseeds #fourtwenty #cannabisclub #ganjagirls #cannabis420 #cannabiseducation #canna+(any words) this includes no #cannamom or #cannamoms
Based on my research, I would not recommend using any hashtags given the current climate of community guidelines violations. This advice will not apply to every account, because each account is different, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
When to Disagree with Decision on the Instagram App?
You have the chance to disagree with the decision, but it is important that you have taken all the preventative action steps necessary to ensure your account is in tip top condition before you hit the “disagree with decision” button. When your account gets reviewed again, I’m not sure if it will check your entire account (back to Nov 15) or if it ONLY looks at the current reviewed items. But, it is best to use caution and take all the measures possible to ensure the entire account is in good condition before you disagree so that MORE do not get flagged.
You should review the BITCH protocol for each post that has a recommendation guideline violation. Additionally, you should review the TEXT and HASHTAGS for all posts going back to November 15th. Then, you will be ready to hit “disagree with decision”. Make sure that ALL posts on the list have been fixed before hitting “disagree with decision”. After that, you practice patience as your account gets reviewed.
Timing of Instagram Guidelines Violations Resolutions
I know we want to see results right away, but unfortunately this takes some level of tact, trial and error and most importantly PATIENCE. If your violation was of one image in a carousel post, then it usually gets resolved in a few hours. Bio, text and hashtag violations seem to clear up in a few days. Cover photo issues can take as long as a week to get resolved.
You might see more issues pop up after the first round, but that’s part of the process. I haven’t seen more than 5 recommendation guidelines violations at a time. So if you have more in line they will come up after the first round gets fixed. That's why it’s important for you to go through all posts back to November 15th and correct the captions and remove hashtags. That way you will KNOW better as to what the issue is for an individual post, because you’ve already eliminated the possibility of a caption or hashtag violation!
SOCIETY’s Plant Mission and Vision
I spent an enormous amount of time putting this guide together for the cannabis community to better understand what I have learned about the Instagram algorithm and Community Guidelines. It is not my intention to keep gatekeep this information because I believe that we rise by lifting each other up HIGHER. I believe in building community and working together - that is why I created the High Society of Mamas to help spread the word about the incredible powers of this plant and the benefits that mothers can gain from consuming it. Additionally, we have the SOCIETY’s Plant Affiliate Program, where we invite you to share our products with your community. To me, SOCIETY is more than just a brand and so I want to share with you the mission and vision of SOCIETY’s Plant:
MISSION: We bring to market artisanal products that elevate humanity. We pour love into our field, strive to work in harmony with mother earth and value collaborating as a community to bring SOCIETY the best of craft and sustainable cultivation.
VISION: We envision a future where society...
- heals from clean, craft plant medicine.
- knows who their grower is and appreciates the art of how they work with the plant.
- thrives from the cannabis industry working together to learn and improve.
- chooses businesses that prioritize their purpose over profits.
- values companies that leave a negative carbon footprint.
- has access to high quality and diverse offerings of plant medicine.
- rebuilds a connection to our one and only home, Earth.
We create that future by sharing these values with our customers and collaborating with businesses that share in that vision, so we can create it together.
THIS IS, JUST A PLANT. BUT NOT JUST ANY PLANT. CANNABIS IS SOCIETY’S PLANT.
SOCIETY’s Affiliates Promote Cannabis Products
If you love SOCIETY’s Plant products, mission and vision and would like to join in to get the best artisanal plant medicine into friends, family and followers’ hands then we suggest that you check out the SOCIETY Affiliate Program. This is a new and improved program that includes a tiered step up in commission as you refer more customers. Initially you get 10% on each referral and your customers receive a 20% off coupon on their entire purchase. If customers use your link then it will track the cookies of that customer on the site for 90 days for you to still earn your commission on the products, even if the customer does not purchase on that visit.
After 5 customer referrals you get a HIGH 5 which consists of a $100 product store credit. After you reach $1,111 in total revenue, then your commission goes up to 15% and cookies last for 1 year on all accounts that use link or coupon. After $4,444 of referred revenue, then the commission goes up to 25% and cookies continue for 1 year. There will also be more bonuses and gifts added on to the program with trials of new products and additional special offers to help you to promote and spread the word about SOCIETY’s Plant.
Hi-Curious Cannabis Creator Marketplace
If you are a cannabis content creator and are seeking out more brand deals then you will want to check out Hi-Curious Cannabis Creator Marketplace. This is the only cannabis creator marketplace where you can gain exposure to promote your rate card and be seen by cannabis companies looking for creators like you.
I cant thank you enough for doing this groundwork that is so essential to our community. I’m grateful that I can bring this to my fellow artist community to help us all grow our cannabis art accounts without the constant minefield.
This is a great resource and the timing couldn’t be more perfect!
Thank you for putting a detailed, yet easy-to-follow protocol together.
I am sure many people will find this very helpful.
Thank you so much for this! It has been very informative! Love & light to you! xo