Newspaper pot ads violates federal law, Postal Service warns

Portland’s U.S. Postal service recently delivered some bad news to newspapers throughout the Northwest: cannabis ads are still against the law.

A memo sent out to papers on Friday clarifies federal law that is illegal “to place an ad in any publication with the purpose of seeking or offering illegally to receive, buy, or distribute a Schedule I controlled substance,” reports the Register-Guard.

“If an advertisement advocates the purchase of clinical marijuana through a Medical Marijuana Dispensary, it does not comply with” the law, the memo continues.

Although marijuana law reform continues to pass throughout U.S. states, cannabis is still considered a banned substance under federal law. Moreover, the USPS is an extended agency of the federal government.

It’s unclear as to what exactly provoked the Postal Service to issue the memo, as it only mentioned the federal law rather than any specific violations.

“For our weekly in Washington state, Chinook Observer, it’s a large deal,” said Steve Forrester, president and CEO of the EO Media Group, to the Register-Guard. “They’re about a 6,000 circulation (paper). Half of it goes through the mail, which is true of a lot of rural weeklies.”

Representatives from the California Newspaper Publishers Association told SF Evergreen on Thursday that no such warning appears to have been issued by the Postal Service to cannabis-related newspapers, magazines, or other publications in the Golden State.

Nonetheless, the memo has already sparked several publications to become more judicious about the language used in dispensary ads.

“We have a lot of advertising where they say Herbal Resource Center. We would not have medical marijuana put on that ad,” said Teresa Pearson, publisher of the Rogue River Press, a weekly Southern Oregon paper with a circulation of about 2,000, to the Register-Guard. “There are several herbal resource centers that sell different types of herbs and not just marijuana, so I guess that’s something to look into also, because I don’t know.”

Forrester has contacted the offices of Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, both Oregon Democrats who were instrumental in the state’s marijuana legalization effort, in order to make sense of the confounding memo.

“Both the senator and congressman expect an explanation as soon as possible and are committed to working toward a resolution that reflects the decision made by their constituents at the ballot box to legalize and regulate marijuana,” Hank Stern, a Wyden spokesman, said in an emailed statement.

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