Newspapers in states where pot is legal are breaking federal law by accepting advertising from the marijuana industry, and the U.S. Postal Service may stop delivering newspapers with the offending ads.
That’s the message from the U.S. Postal Service had for Northwest newspapers late last month, as first reported by the Bend Bulletin
, when it sent the Long Beach, Washington-based Chinook Observer
a memo advising them that “If an advertisement solicits the mailing of controlled substances such as marijuana, it would violate USPS mailing standards.”
The memo further states that federal law makes it “unlawful to place an ad in any publication with the purpose of seeking or offering illegally to receive, buy or distribute” a substance such as marijuana, even if it’s from a medical dispensary.
A follow-up email from the USPS to the Inlander
states that it is a felony under the federal Controlled Substances Act to place a written advertisement “seeking or offering” a controlled substance such as marijuana.
“Advertising that solicits the illegal sale or purchase of marijuana accordingly is not mailable,” reads the statement.
Ever since marijuana became legal in Oregon and Washington, newspapers (including the Inlander
) have accepted advertisements for the burgeoning industry. Many newspapers use the mail to deliver their periodicals to readers, including the Inlander
, which mails a small number of papers.
“In the past, the U.S. Attorney in each of the cannabis states has turned a blind eye to cannabis advertising in newspapers,” reads an email from Marcia Van Dyke, executive director of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association, sent to its members. “It appears from the action of the Portland postmaster that this may no longer be the case.”
“Newspaper companies need to make their own decisions about how to deal with postmasters as well as USPS as a whole,” the email continues. “It is unclear what action will be undertaken by USPS other than refusing to mail publications that carry cannabis advertising or possibly revoking their mailing permits. Our Senators and Members of Congress will be sympathetic but unable to effect any change to the law and probably will be forced enforce US Postal regulations, now that enforcement has begun.”
Van Dyke tells the Inlander
that she’s not too worried about the situation, citing a 2013 U.S. Attorney General memo that signaled the feds would mellow on legal pot. She also notes that newspapers have been accepting and mailing this advertising for years now.