CANNABIS CULTURE – YouTube has been under scrutiny recently for a number of reasons. In response to advertisers complaints, they demonetized many channels with an Adpocalypse. Next, they implemented algorithms that affected organic reach. Then they started squeezing out content that isn’t ad friendly. All of these actions taken were reactive, but it is important that they step in to moderate. When a platform hosts and even promotes things like terrorism videos, and footage of a dead body, something must be done. Or must it?
Squeeze out the Terpenes
The purge also dramatically cut back on cannabis content that was floating out there. Educational and uplifting content from channels like US-based Leafly, Spanish channel Marihuana Television, and Canada’s Urbanremo got the boot, even Cannabis Culture’s own Pot TV was affected. Then it trickled down to channels with fewer followers. Channels and content are being kicked off the goliath viewing platform to this day, but there are still some rays of hope out there.
Seven Leafs in a Free World
1) Get with the Future: Green Flower Media
Max Simon started Green Flower Media (GFM) in 2015 with a mission to spread trusted cannabis content around the globe. Providing expert knowledge, information, and the truth about cannabis, GFM de-stigmatizes the plant by sharing how it changes lives. His videos on YouTube were behind a membership wall. As a result of suddenly being shut down by the behemoth, GFM made a portion of their ensuing internal platform free to the public.
“We don’t buy or sell the plant ever, and we don’t sell products and we don’t any way shape or form infringe upon local or federal law, we didn’t think that we would get shut down by YouTube because of producing education-based content. And so it’s been shocking and painful and feels like a level of discrimination and censorship that doesn’t totally translate when you look at the details. We’ve decided to step up to the plate around the video side to fill the void.”
GFM is already accepting content submissions from the general public, but anything aired must strictly align with their mission.
“I think YouTube just decided to make a policy about something that is kind of grey right now and since that’s the case, they’re not going to take any chances. I don’t think that they are trying to be vindictive to cannabis, I think that just like so many, they are uneducated. They are following the trendlines from the past and not following the trend lines of the present and future.”
2) She’s Positive Smash 420
Ashley Positive Smash started her Washington State-based cannabis video content in 2016. A lonely stoner who found community in the audience she built online, at one point she was practically making a living off her YouTube monetization. “YouTube really brought a lot a joy to me! It was the social life that I didn’t have.”
Up until two weeks ago she was still bringing in the bills. Her channel just got shut down with 150,000 subscribers. Where’s her content hosted now? She has loyal subscribers who have followed her to Patreon and maintains regular content on Vimeo, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat.
“To me, the biggest thing we can do in our voices, with our social media, is say, you can’t stifle us. You can’t take away our voice. Just because you take away one platform doesn’t mean we are just going to take it.”
3) Chronic Crafting Sarah
Sarah Chronic Crafter has moved her content to TheWeedTube. Her craft started with Color Me Cannabis, a shop on Etsy where she sold her digital cannabis designs. She eventually self-published a full length coloring book which and sold it on Amazon, then started up a vlog on YouTube.
She claims YouTube lost the vision. After receiving the first strike on her video content, she had no problem with age-restricting her content going forward. Next she knew, her content and 4,000 subscribers were gone. Sarah is disappointed in the direction YouTube is headed.
“Instead of being a platform for anyone to share their content/lives it seems they only want ad-friendly and child-friendly content. If they can’t make money off your channel by placing ads on your videos, they don’t want it on there.”
4) Coral Reefer’s Stoney Sundays
When Coral’s adventuresome and spirited cannabis channel got pulled two weeks ago, she was both “shocked and simultaneously unsurprised. I lost 8 years of content and a connection to an audience that has watched me grow up from the time I turned 21. It’s been devastating, and motivating in it’s own way as well.”
Coral hosts a weekly Stoney Sundays program where she discusses anything regarding smoking up and staying high. Stoney Sundays must go on after YouTube, so she’s taken her video to Facebook for now.
“I want to continue to focus on the mainstream social media networks as opposed to a cannabis specific route because I think we need to fight for our representation in mainstream society as cannabis is commercialized and popularized. Independent voices of patients and enthusiasts need to be a part of the conversation and we are being excluded when social networks enforce an anti-cannabis policy.”
5) Dominique Dabs and Diego Pellicer
Only one of Dominique Dabs’ and one of Diego Pellicer’s videos were kicked off YouTube. Lorenz Dallas, aka Dominique Dabs has a personal channel on YouTube and is the Marketing Manager for Diego Pellicer’s premium marijuana brand. His personal “How to Roll a Blunt” video got removed. From his company’s page, “The Top Selling Products of 420” was taken down. Luckily that was the worst of it for him.
“I’ve personally just shifted my direction and planned on doing so beforehand because cannabis is just not that mainstream – not mainstream enough to monetize without an excessive amount of work.”
Instead he normalizes cannabis by mixing it with entertainment and music. He’s looking into doing Twitch live streams in the future. Twitch is a video gaming platform that to which some cannabis content creators have made the switch.
6) Manuel Isiordia’s Recreational 420 Reviews
Manny went from being a “Youtuber” to it’s gone in one day. That day just happened to be his birthday. Attempting to be the most politically correct weed reviewer, he hasn’t found a new home where he can voice his thoughts.
He thinks YouTube is no longer a community. He sees it as an ad agency and sees himself as a component of the creative production – the creative team that just got fired.
“It used to be the place for the oddballs but if you don’t fit a certain mold you’re not welcome to this party. As to how I’ve adjusted, I haven’t really yet all the way. I’m hesitant to upload to Facebook now because of their rules. ”
6) Cannabis Culture’s Own Pot TV
Pot TV was founded in the year 2000, five years before YouTube, and was actually the first full online broadcasting network. For too long cannabis content had been rejected from the mainstream, and so creator Marc Emery started his own media network.
Managing Editor and Executive Producer Anil Sthankiya says Pot TV’s relationship with YouTube has been “tumultuous.” They’ve had a number of takedowns in the past. During a recent affront YouTube took away their ability to livestream. About a month ago they suspended Pot TV’s channel including everything they had on the platform – 22,000 videos. What’s unique about Pot TV’s story is that their channel was eventually reinstated.
“They didn’t do it for anybody else. My personal hunch is that they realized that for their own algorithm purposes what justified their existence is to link back to ours. We started years before them and they were scrubbing our content.”
Anil thinks that the YouTube crackdown has more to do with big advertisers than it does with safety, and that YouTube is on the wrong side of history.
“If I were in charge of YouTube, I would be promoting all sorts of things. It would be better for their business model as a whole if they were more socially active and socially conscious. It would do a lot for them.”
Discriminated and Filtered in a Free World
Here’s what happens when a company like YouTube makes the people behind it feel discriminated against and unwelcome. This is America – they shoot up the place. That YouTube employee who opened fire in her office was an irate creative. She trusted a company that not only demonetized her personal video expression, but probably demoralized her in the workplace as well. Sad, isn’t it?
Unfortunately, the red carpet that has mostly been rolled up from under our feet is the story of yet another company that is sacrificing the small for the big, the powerful, and the profit. If Youtube doesn’t want to be the vehicle for spreading knowledge and understanding of the healing nature of weed, that won’t stop us cannabis connoisseurs. In our fight for cannabis normalization, we have become agile. Whatever it takes, we will build it ourselves.
Is this the end of YouTube’s free reign and claim? A goliath in the mainstream world of video, could any other platform ever come close? Where does the free, independent media go from here? I suggest you choose your own adventure.