It’s 2020 and smoking weed is about as controversial as brewing a cup of coffee these days, at least in North America. Yet there’s always a fear of getting in trouble for it.
Unfortunately, we aren’t *quite* out of the woods of cannabis prohibition yet — at the time of this writing, Canada has fully legalized marijuana while ten of the USA’s states are now recreationally legal. Yet the pesky American government continues to enforce a “schedule one” prohibition, creating a bizarre grey area of semi-legality across the nation.
So…. can you smoke weed on Twitch without losing your account?
To find the answer to this question, I read Twitch’s entire Terms of Service word-for-word. On top of that, I researched and found enlightening historical examples relating to this subject. Finally, I went ahead and personally smoked weed on camera while streaming on Twitch.
We will put all three of these things together to find the most accurate and thorough answer to this question that has EVER BEEN WRITTEN! That’s right. Let’s get into it.
The Snoop Dogg Incident
Here’s a video of the first ever sanctioned weed smoking on Twitch: Snoop Dogg smoking a blunt in 2018.
While doing a live stream to promote a new video game, Snoop decided to light one up. Cannabis was freshly legal in the state as a recreational drug. For the first time, Twitch stayed silent while a high profile stream featured marijuana use.
This is pure speculation (Twitch refuses to explicitly comment on weed, which we will discuss soon), but most people assume that he was “allowed” to do so (i.e. the channel didn’t get a suspension) thanks to California’s full legalization of weed a few months prior. The assumption is that if this had happened in 2017, it would have resulted in a ban.
Celebrities do not always get the rule-free treatment on Twitch. Andy Dick was banned for doing cocaine on stream (NSFW Warning: Explicit Drug Use — https://youtu.be/8StehvC9FLI). I haven’t done any extra research on this but it appears clear to me that other illegal drugs will result in a fast and unavoidable ban.
The Second-Hand Info From Reddit
This thread features a redditor asking about the legitimacy of smoking weed on stream. That same redditor follows up with an email response supposedly from Twitch customer service. It appears totally legitimate, though there is no “proof” that the email is real.
Twitch’s response is short and to the point. I will quote the most relevant part: “We discourage broadcasters from the use of marijuana on our services. If doing so violates your local laws, causes you to inflict harm upon yourself, or is a focus of your broadcasts, this activity is entirely prohibited from broadcast.”
This paragraph states that marijuana use is DISCOURAGED but not banned. It is banned if it violates your local laws. The word “local” is important since it means that streamers in the United States of America can partake in weed on stream if they reside in one of the ten legal states.
The Direct Source: Twitch’s Terms of Service Agreement
In preparation for writing this article I read the entire Twitch terms of service. It’s a lot shorter than I expected. You can see the whole thing over here.
There are three sections of the terms of service that relate to smoking weed on stream. Here is each one, followed by my own commentary. In case it isn’t obvious, I am not a lawyer, I’m a musician and gamer, so none of this is backed by deep legal knowledge or anything — just common sense.
Part One: “YOU AGREE NOT TO violate any law, contract, intellectual property or other third-party right or commit a tort, and that you are solely responsible for your conduct while on the Twitch Services.”
This part is clear as day. If any activities you do on stream are against the law, you can be banned from Twitch for them.
Twitch operates in a grey area where they seem to avoid enforcing this rule on weed smokers unless it crosses some sort of undefined line. The TOS is super clear though. If Twitch decides they want to ban you for smoking weed, they can.
This same logic applies, for example, to jaywalking during an IRL stream. Jaywalking, i.e. crossing the street when it’s not allowed by law, is utterly commonplace in many cities around America. If a streamer technically is jaywalking on stream, they probably wouldn’t get in trouble — but if they run across a busy highway and nearly kill themselves, they might get banned. It’s a grey area that allows Twitch to ban “problem users” while also allowing people to get away with it under reasonable situations. This comes with the cost of allowing for corruption (i.e. one streamer being treated differently than another by moderation staff)
The second relevant part of the TOS: “To the fullest extent permitted by applicable law, Twitch reserves the right, without notice and in our sole discretion, to terminate your license to use the Twitch Services (including to post User Content), and to block or prevent your future access to and use of the Twitch Services”
Twitch can “terminate your license” (ban you from Twitch forever) at their “sole discretion” (any reason they want) and “without notice” (no warning).
In other words, whenever you argue about if Twitch is “allowed” to ban you, it’s not a legal argument. Twitch is always legally allowed to ban you. What you’re really asking is — will it actually happen? Or can you get away with it? Can you land in the safe part of the grey area?
If you don’t believe me, look at the TOS for yourself. I don’t know if the partner agreements or high level contracts enforce different rules, but for affiliates and non-affiliate streamers, this is the way it works.
The third relevant portion of the TOS: “If we fail to exercise or enforce any right or provision of these Terms of Service, it will not constitute a waiver of such right or provision.”
This part means that the past is irrelevant. If Twitch did one thing yesterday, they have the right to do a different thing today. They have the full legal authority to change their mind without warning or prior notice.
Should You Smoke Weed on Twitch?
Given the Terms of Service, you have a few options.
The absolute safest option is to not smoke weed on stream. Don’t talk about it, don’t smoke it, not even in a legal state. This gives you full confidence that you will never face any weed-related consequences on stream.
The common sense option is to only smoke weed if you are a resident of a legal state or country, and even then only when you are physically located in a legal area at that time. In other words, no streaming with weed from an illegal state — but when home, in your legal abode, go ahead. This is the implicit rule that Twitch is enforcing.
The risky option is to do whatever the fuck you want — smoke from an illegal place and talk all about it. It’s not wise legally and will get you suspended, maybe even banned, if you get “caught.” But the truth is that I personally know of at least one streamer with a 20+ average concurrent viewership who smokes weed all time and has never been in trouble for it. This option is “risky” but you will probably be fine. The real risk is if you want to become a Twitch partner. I cannot confirm that smoking weed on stream will or won’t impact your ability to be approved for partnership.
To reduce risk, downplay the weed thing. Treat it like a cup of coffee — it’s fun, but you don’t need to focus on it and talk about it over and over again. Twitch’s main rule seems to be that “drug use” (i.e. weed smoking, alcohol, etc) should not be the main focus of the stream. Keep it chill and enjoy.
Basically, if you’re a pothead and cannabis is a part of your brand, go for it. But if weed is the kind of thing you only partake in once-in-a-while, it might be prudent to not explicitly do it on stream. You could always take a puff or two off camera.
I hope your stream is a huge success. Good luck and have fun!