YouTube deletes channel of Bartlett woman over hemp-based oil video

A Bartlett woman documenting her Lyme disease struggles online was appalled last month to learn that YouTube had deleted her two-year-old channel and all of her 600+ videos without warning. Now she can’t contact her subscribers or get copies of the videos that she didn’t back up.

"This is an injustice and I know I can't be the only one being silenced," Jessica McLaughlin said.

She said she’s in a holding pattern right now, using Facebook and other social media to get the word out about her plight. She’s also continuing to educate people about Lyme disease.

Jessica McLaughlin

YouTube said her content violated their guidelines, she explained. She believes it was about the single video she did when she was testing cannabidiol (CBD) oil to control pain that other medicine doesn’t relieve. Her other deleted videos were about plant supplements, Scriptures she found comforting and other elements of her journey as a Lyme disease survivor.

The timing is particularly bad, she said, because May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month. She knows her YouTube followers were counting on her to publish new videos or at least have the old ones available for them to browse.

When her account was deleted, she had 958 subscribers, and the channel was growing by hundreds of new subscribers each month, she said. One video alone had 45,000 views.

“YouTube essentially made me abandon all the people,” she said.

The bitter irony is that the CBD oil treatment didn’t even help her, McLaughlin said. She quit using it after about a week. “It made me sleepy. I kind of wanted to just snuggle in my bed longer.”

What is CBD oil?

CBD oil doesn’t deliver a marijuana high. It has a concentration of 0.3 percent or less of THC, the chemical in marijuana that is mood-altering. In addition to the 29 states where medicinal and/or recreational marijuana is legal, another 17 states have CBD-specific laws on the books, including Tennessee. Each of those states has its own restrictions on THC levels and when the oil can be used (such as for controlling epilepsy).

CBD oil can be extracted from marijuana buds and flowers or from hemp (a fibrous form of cannabis with very low THC levels). A 2017 Tennessee law allows growers and processors licensed by the state to work with “industrial hemp,” which has no more than 0.3 percent of THC. According to research at newschannel5.com, “Properly licensed products made with CBD from a hemp plant [are] legal in Tennessee and available without a prescription.”

YouTube, however, doesn’t seem to have gotten that message or simply doesn’t care about the distinction.

Mclaughlin’s experience with YouTube was like dealing with any faceless corporate bureaucracy, she said: Late at night while she was sleeping, the company delivered one email advising that the policy violation earned her one strike, but not to worry because it took three strikes for her to be ousted. Moments later, the company send another automated email saying her entire account had been shut down.

She appealed the decision, but her appeal was also denied. She’s not been able to talk to an actual person at YouTube to have a conversation about the account shutdown.

She thinks her one video on the topic of using a reportedly legal marijuana derivative was mischaracterized. “I think I got lumped in with all of the people out there promoting marijuana use,” she said. “They call them weed-tubers.”

According to UK-based ISMOKE magazine for marijuana supporters, YouTube has been on a rampage, removing cannabis content and creators more and more in recent months. That magazine speculated that the purge began with the YouTube “Adpocalypse,” which began in April 2017 as advertisers pulled their ads from the platform to protest offense content.

McLaughlin said she also believes that the pharmaceutical industry is pressuring Google, which owns YouTube, to shut down natural remedies like CBD oil.

Where the decision leaves her

Her Lyme disease leaves her feeling like she has flu, strained muscles from an extreme workout and a wicked hangover virtually all the time. Her skin, muscles and joints ache. Any actual exercises leave her sore for months. When it’s at its worst, the disease keeps her confined to her bed or walking only with the help of crutches. And she has also faced some cognitive issues.

She believes she caught the disease at age 8, but her health didn’t go rapidly downhill until she was in a car accident around 2001.

“I have not had a day where I felt good since 2001,” McLaughlin said.

Diagnosis was difficult. Her first blood test was negative, but a Missouri doctor who specializes in Lyme disease care administered another test that came back positive.

She works to keep her life as normal as possible. She home-schools her three children and in her spare time tries to learn about new treatments for her disease and spread the word about prevention and health management.

McLaughlin advises people to protect themselves from the bugs that spread the disease. “Realize it’s not just something you can catch and take three weeks to get rid of it. This is a life-altering disease.”

Many of her videos have also been uploaded to her public Facebook Page, Passionate Healers, found at https://www.facebook.com/passionatehealers/.