Philip Markoff works in digital marketing. To most, he’s known as Crazy Ginger Kid. In his YouTube videos, he sits in a room with instruments leaning against the white wall behind him making the case for legalized cannabis, relaying the effects of DMT, heroin, and methamphetamines and recounts his own road to recovery. He started the channel because he found online resources for recovery too weak or too condemning. A more candid approach was “a puzzle piece in YouTube that was missing and desperately needed.” His most popular videos have over a million views.

A few weeks ago he got a strike on an older video about shrooms. At first, he thought it might be an isolated incident, but more strikes followed. “I thought it was just me,” says Markoff in an email, “the next day I saw Your Mate Tom and Psychedsubstance got strikes as well. It was at that point I realized it was across the entire platform.”

“It seemed like YouTube had adjusted its treatment of drug-related content in an overzealous way,” says Seth, who runs a popular account called The Drug Classroom. “TDC has been on YouTube for years and it’s only ever received a couple restrictions, so the sudden appearance of more was surprising. Then the situation developed further within a couple days. I received multiple strikes, meaning videos were removed and restrictions were placed on the channel.”

giphy Is Youtube turning its back on cannabis?
Seth, from The Drug Classroom/Youtube

For YouTube’s cannabis community, it’s hard to tell if it’s just paranoia. From trip reports to educational videos, accounts that specialize in drugs have been getting flagged simultaneously. Being flagged can result in some videos being demonetized, a blockade for new content or streams. If an account receives three strikes in the span of three months, their account is scrapped from YouTube. Seth said this once happened to TDC, and the recovery process took multiple evaluations.

YouTube has existing rules around drugs or something like them. For permissible content, drug use needs to be “contextualized.” That means smoking weed has to be in service of something educational or entertaining, not simply gratuitous. That’s a thick gray to work around. Much like a country where weed is legal statewide but federally forbidden, getting hard answers isn’t easy. The ultimate difference between someone lighting up on their webcam and Doug Benson’s lighting up on set could be lost in the fog.

Worrying about a conspiracy against them, YouTubers Arend Lenderink and Mackenzie “Macdizzle420” McCurry unveiled plans for a YouTube alternative: The WeedTube. A site that would host video content for stoners, free of scrutiny. The campaign raised its goal of $6.5 thousand dollars in two weeks, and an early version of the site has gone live. In a 50 minute YouTube post about WeedTube, Lenderink explains from his couch that he intended to debut the site closer to 4/20, but concerns of YouTube wiping out his channel forced his hand. As of this writing, Lenderink’s channel still exists and he has uploaded eight additional videos.

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