Since the official legalization of recreational marijuana in the state of California on January 1st this year, the Bureau of Cannabis Control has been at work sending out cease and desist orders to Californian dispensaries that are operating without a valid state license. Over 900 letters have been sent out to dispensaries and now the Bureau has turned its attention on the website that alerted them to the existence of the unlicensed businesses. Irvine based company Weedmaps, which runs a website and app that functions as a weed dispensary directory similar to Yelp but for marijuana based business, has now been the recipient of such a letter.
The Bureau Notifies Weedmaps
Lori Ajax, chief of the Bureau of Cannabis Control, has told the company “you are aiding and abetting in violation of state cannabis laws” by accepting advertisements for businesses that don’t hold a valid state license. If the company doesn’t stop advertising unlicensed businesses, they may now face criminal and civil penalties including fines for each ad placed. In effect, it could prove somewhat disastrous for the popular marijuana company that is so big now that it has many offices including Denver, Colorado and Berlin, Germany.
Weedmaps Defends Their Right to Advertise
Weedmaps received their first letter on February 16th and has not made a formal comment on the issue. According to The OC Register, however, the company’s president Christopher Beals is firm in his belief that they should be able to allow advertising. He is quoted as saying, “The thing is, at the end of the day, we’re an information platform. We’re showing the same information that Google and Yelp and Craigslist and 30 other websites are showing.” He continues, stating “to sort of say, ‘Let’s pretend an illegal market doesn’t exist’ or that people can’t just type ‘dispensary’ into Google and find this information… isn’t really realistic.”
Compliance from Leafly
Leafly, a competitor of Weedmaps, has taken a different approach on the matter. As of March 1st, they’ve stopped accepting advertisements from unlicensed dispensaries. They released a statement on February 7th saying, “The California state government has made clear that only licensed retailers and delivery services may advertise via technology platforms.” The new regulations for marijuana business in California have been created under Senate Bill 94. California license numbers need to appear in all advertisements to prove that they are approved both locally and at a state level. The number also serves as proof that the marijuana sold at that particular dispensary is safe, having been tested and properly labelled. The absence of this number on an advertisement is considered an offense, similar to the requirements for contractors and real estate brokers.
Right now, Weedmaps appears to be operating as usual, with many of the unlicensed dispensaries still advertised through the site and the app. The state is giving companies time to adjust to the new laws and, at this time, holding off proceedings. Currently, there is no immediate action pending other than to continue communicating with the company in the hopes of achieving a resolution.