Social media is somewhat of a mixed blessing these days. In one sense, it helps us stay “connected” (whatever that means); but inverse to that, it can grant a disproportionate advantage to certain ways of thinking.
Case in point – Twitter recently instituted a warning to every search for ‘marijuana’. The warning proclaims that “Help is available” for substance abuse, complete with a 1-800 number for anyone struggling with substance abuse. It’s interesting that this warning shows up for illegal drugs such as ‘cocaine’ and ‘heroin’, but not for marijuana’s legalized counterpart ‘alcohol’. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol is responsible for over 3 million deaths each year, while the DEA themselves have declared that “no deaths from overdose of marijuana have been reported”.
We’re being warned about a dangerous substance, correct? How about we warn everyone about all dangerous substances? Although alcohol is the more dangerous culprit and a prime candidate for this level of concern, it gets away with a simple PLEASE DRINK RESPONSIBLY. Those capital letters really emphasize the message, right? Feels like there is something else going on here… Matt Sutton, director of media relations for the Drug Policy Alliance, had this to say – “It is not surprising that SAMHSA would be behind stigmatizing content like this, but it is surprising that a platform like Twitter would allow them to co-opt entire search terms, regardless of a person’s reason for searching for them,”. He went on to point out – “It goes back to the same false dichotomy that people who use drugs are struggling and need help verses the reality that most people can use drugs non-problematically, while a small portion of the population tends to struggle with substance use disorder.”
All of this came about when U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams went on a crusade against marijuana use, urging all Americans to “KNOW THE RISKS. TAKE ACTION. PROTECT OUR FUTURE.”. A foreboding message, to be sure, but what has Adams all worked up all of a sudden? Well, the timeline of this all happens to coincide quite nicely to when the MORE Act was introduced. To those unfamiliar, the MORE Act (Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement) aims to completely decriminalize and de-schedule marijuana as a controlled substance and was put to a vote by Congress on September 21st of this year.
Enter Twitter. The influential social media platform that lets us speak our minds and doesn’t judge us for it. Right. Well, they recently partnered with government agency SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) to institute the warning mentioned above in a move that is not entirely dissimilar to mandating that “Reefer Madness” be shown in dispensaries across the nation. For a social media platform to partner with the government for the purpose of further demonizing a plant that saves lives is reckless on their part. This government interference in social media could be a slippery slope for times to come. Something designed to bringing people together should have no business interfering with political issues and Twitter has blatantly overstepped their bounds in doing so, especially in such a crucial time for the future of marijuana. Putting disclaimers and warnings on certain terms is one thing, but it needs to be comprehensive if they are going to do it at all, otherwise it is just plain irresponsible. The right thing to do here would be for Twitter to just calm down and be Twitter. Leave the decision-making up to the people that are affected by them.