Could The End Of Net Neutrality Spell Trouble For Cannabis Businesses?

Could The End Of Net Neutrality Spell Trouble For Cannabis Businesses?

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In case your internet has suddenly gotten too slow to keep up with recent news, the FCC last week repealed net neutrality, a series of regulations which have long kept the small oligopoly of internet providers in this country from totally screwing over internet users by charging more for some content, slowing access to certain websites, and blocking other  completely.

Among many, many concerns over the future of communications in this country following the repeal are some concerns over what impact this may have on the cannabis industry. The biggest potential trouble for cannabis in this issue stems just from the fact that the federal government, particularly this administration of the federal government, is making changes to the way businesses can conduct themselves.

Since marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, and probably will be for the foreseeable future, all federal business laws have the potential to make all kinds of problems for weed that other industries don’t have to worry about.

Particularly troubling is a tweet from Comcast recently reported on by Leafly. Last month, as the FCC was gearing up for its big deregulatory sweep, Comcast tweeted that, “We do not and will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content. We will continue to make sure that our policies are clear and transparent for consumers, and we will not change our commitment to these principles.”

Cool. Except that “lawful” might not technically apply to marijuana companies, even ones fully licensed and compliant with local rules. As Leafly pointed out, confusion over the federal legality of weed businesses has previously caused social media sites like Facebook and Instagram to deactivate the accounts of state-legalized cannabis businesses.

If internet providers themselves showed the same kind of cautiousness and blocked cannabis businesses, it would put a major wrench in the budding industry.

In addition, businesses that are small and/or young (as most cannabis businesses are) could in general be in danger if the worst comes of the FCC’s repeal. A group of more than 100 tech startups wrote a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, saying that the repeal of net neutrality will “directly impede an entrepreneur’s ability to ‘start a business, immediately reach a worldwide customer base, and disrupt an entire industry.’ Our companies should be able to compete with incumbents on the quality of our products and services, not our capacity to pay tolls to Internet access providers.”

Of course, net neutrality isn’t over yet. Attorney General Rob Ferguson is filing a legal challenge to the FCC’s rollback, and Republican lawmakers have even introduced a bill into Congress which would, if passed, put back into place many protections taken away by the net neutrality repeal.

Photo via Flickr user Steve Johnson

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