A few weeks ago, Sam Houston, a California cannabis aficionado, was checking out some of his favorite YouTube channels when he noticed a trend. One by one, accounts such as those run by users “Vader OG” and the horticulturalist known as Jorge Cervantes were being shut down. All were given the same ominous message: The channel’s content had been flagged for review and was found to violate YouTube’s guidelines.
For the last month, the global video platform has been shutting down a wide swath of cannabis channels, often with little or no warning.
Houston, who works as a community manager in San Francisco, was perplexed. Those channels have been around for a long time. Some were showing or discussing cannabis growing techniques or sharing the trials and tribulations of growing the plant. Most were merely informational videos, not sexually explicit or dangerous in any way.
Houston wasn’t alone. His frustration has been felt across the entire community of cannabis YouTube content creators. For the last month, the global video platform has been shutting down a wide swath of cannabis channels, often with little or no warning. Two years ago, Facebook famously shut down
many cannabis-related accounts, but YouTube has always been much friendlier and more tolerant of cannabis material.
The move, which came with no public notice from YouTube, has the cannabis world confounded. It comes as an abrupt about-face at a time when cannabis is gaining wider social acceptance. The plant remains federally illegal, but only a small handful of states outlaw it in all forms.
YouTube’s Warning Flags
Dylan Osborn is the founder of Greenbox Grown. It’s a site and channel aimed at teaching people how to grow their own medicine “without spending too much money or without too much time or effort,” he told Leafly. YouTube flagged the channel a few weeks ago.
That channel boasted 13,000 subscribers and more than 200 videos. Many of them were instructional how-to videos, along with strain reviews. Several months ago Osborn started getting flagged, the “sixth time in the last four months,” he estimated. But he’d always be reinstated with a quick email.
This time, though, it wasn’t just his channel. “You could tell it was different,” he said. “Lots of other channels were getting taken down, channels that had been around for years and years.”
Why Cannabis? Why Now?
Osborn expressed frustration at the inability to figure out how exactly he was suddenly violating the channel’s rules. “There are tons of other videos violating content guidelines that aren’t cannabis related,” he said. “You can watch videos about how to make bombs out of household items on YouTube all day.”
Osborn has since switched to self-hosting his videos and charging a $14.99 monthly subscription fee.