A Message from Bridget: May 2021
Greetings from CeresMED,
Operating as a federally illegal business has always had its inherent challenges. From the extreme position of wondering whether you are going to be raided and arrested by federal agents, to navigating cumbersome and complicated regulations, to weathering persistent pockets of prejudice within the community, we have lived these realities and countless others for over eight years. Each of them adds complexities to running a successful business.
For every challenge that we face, our patients feel the effects and/or have their own versions on a personal level. The threat of arrest was just as real for our patients when we opened our first dispensary in 2013. The rules and regulations that Vermonters must follow to have access to and be compliant within the Vermont Marijuana Registry can be a deterrent to participation and a cause for confusion. Prejudice and the stigma related to cannabis use are still rampant and can exist within one’s own family. All of these stressors are unwelcome when you are managing a serious health condition and searching for plant-based remedies to manage your symptom relief.
One challenge that is often overlooked and has a considerable impact on both businesses and consumers is the censorship of cannabis content. This censorship takes place in myriad ways, from outright bans on advertising to language restrictions on social media platforms and through mainstream communications providers like Facebook and Mailchimp.
While the inability to market in traditional ways has a direct negative effect on the ability of any company to grow their business, perhaps the most detrimental outcome the censorship of cannabis content has is decreased access for consumers. Whether they be choosing cannabis for medical or recreational purposes, decreased access can take many forms, including but not limited to:
- Low enrollment in a state medical cannabis program due to lack of awareness. Here in Vermont, medical cannabis licenses are prohibited from advertising their services. The result, in part, is a historically low participation rate compared to other states with medical cannabis programs. This translates to the potential for a significant number of Vermonters missing the opportunity to experience safe, symptom relief through plant-based medicine.
- Unequal access to state medical programs. When information about how to access a medical cannabis program is unevenly disseminated, patients are left behind. Usually, these patients are the most vulnerable; those who already lack access to healthcare or who have been disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs.
- Reduced distribution of educational content. Education is the key to creating confidence in the effective use of cannabis and eradicating negative stereotypes associated with its use.
- Inefficiencies in transactions and increased potential for the spread of misinformation. Banning cannabis content on traditional systems of communication creates needless delays and associated frustrations. It can also lead to the inadvertent spread of misinformation because essential words have to be removed from the conversation to be compliant with “community guidelines” set by platforms.
- Delays in the normalization and legalization of cannabis use on the federal level.
Making this situation all the more frustrating is that the enforcement of “community guidelines” and the resultant censorship appears to be random or by some underlying, unknowable algorithm. It can also be cyclical, intensifying during peak sales events like the annual 420 cannabis holiday or when there is a surge of dispensary openings related to a new state legalizing cannabis for retail sales. During these times, companies come under increased regulatory pressure by the Federal Communications Commission to crack down on content related to the sales of cannabis, which remains federally illegal.
The recent disruption in our ability to text message our patients via our online ordering platform is most likely connected to 420. First came the instructions leading up to the holiday that we could no longer use certain words when communicating by SMS text messaging with our patients – essential words like “cannabis,” “gram,” “dispensary,” “hash” and “Sour Kush.” Quickly on its heels came the notification that all text messaging would stop and that we would need to shift to email within a 24-hour timeframe. The possible consequence for not doing so could be the eventual shutdown of online sales and express pick-up altogether. These services have been critical for registered patients, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it has allowed an at-risk population quick and reliable contactless service.
At times, these challenges seem insurmountable and yet we have persevered. We have done so by staying true to our mission and by building strong relationships with other stakeholders in our communities, both here in Vermont and the cannabis industry at large. Vermont’s registered patients deserve an enormous amount of credit for remaining flexible and open-minded during these times of unexpected transition. Thank you for standing with us and standing up for cannabis.
In order to maintain a safe and consistent presence on our current digital platforms so that we can continue to communicate with our patients and other interested parties, we are implementing the following changes:
- As previously noted, until further notice, all confirmations and notifications regarding BlackbirdGo online orders will move to email supported by telephone calls.
- As of 4/30/21, all three of our brands, Champlain Valley Dispensary, Ceres Natural Remedies and trētap/trētap CBD, will no longer actively participate on Facebook. Our use of Facebook has always been to educate and advocate for the therapeutic use of the cannabis plant. We can not effectively achieve these goals through this platform. Moving forward, we will use these pages solely as a means of access to basic information for our patients and community – our hours of operation, location and ability to Message. Our Champlain Valley Dispensary page has been deactivated, and we have created a new CeresMED page.
- Increased activity on Twitter. The educational content that we previously posted on Facebook, including event notifications and links to cannabis science and research, will now be tweeted.
- In our Mailchimp email communications, we will refrain from using language specific to the prices and ∆9-THC content (as expressed in milligrams) of our products. In order for patients to obtain this information, we will provide links as needed.
Please be in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions related to these changes. We will respond within one business day of being received. We are also just a phone call away. Give us a call during business hours. We’d love to hear from you: 833-283-9333.
In Good Health,
CeresMED Director of Brand Experience