“Marijuana for Sale” Ads Can Get You Imprisoned


As of today, recreational marijuana has been legalized in 4 states and the District of Columbia. Medical marijuana is legal to purchase in 19 more states. Despite nearly half the country having legalized cannabis in some manner, marijuana remains illegal on a federal level and is still considered to be a Schedule 1 drug, the same as heroin and cocaine. This means despite its legalization on a state level, producers, retailers, and consumers of marijuana are considered to be committing a federal law. This fact has created an issue for businesses with marijuana for sale in states where pot is legal because both advertising marijuana sale and publishing ads for weed are considered crimes.

A Proposed Amendment

Nice use of product placement but you probably won’t be getting this in the mail with your coupons.

That’s why this week, 8 Congress people took it upon themselves to talk to Attorney General Loretta Lynch of the Department of Justice in an attempt to persuade her to re-evaluate laws pertaining to magazine and newspaper publishers accepting ads from marijuana retailers who want to let the public know they have weed-based products for sale at their establishments. In a letter to the Attorney General, the concerned Congress members ask for an amendment to the law that promises “that DOJ will not prosecute individuals who are placing advertisements for marijuana products in accordance with state law.”

Dating the Controlled Substances Act

In 1994, 2 years before California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) made it a crime, punishable by up to 4 years of incarceration, to “place in any newspaper, magazine, handbill, or other publications, any written advertisement knowing that it has the purpose of seeking or offering illegally to receive, buy, or distribute a Schedule I controlled substance.” At the time this was decided, there were no individual state laws legalizing marijuana, medical or otherwise. In other words, there was no conflict. A lot has happened since that time as far as marijuana law goes.

No “Marijuana for Sale” Junk Mail

The USPS has taken a hard line against marijuana mailers.

As a result of the CSA, last December, USPS (the United States Postal Service) announced that they were no longer able to mail any publication that advertised marijuana anywhere in the United States. Employees of the USPS, under the law, cannot take it upon themselves to decide what is “mailable” and remove it from being posted. But they do have to send a warning to whoever posted it and they are obliged to notify law enforcement. In this scenario, both the advertiser and publisher would be considered to be breaking federal law. In states where marijuana is legal and businesses are dependent on advertising, this creates a problem that the 8 Congress members hope to fix with their suggested adjustment.

It would seem at this time that the original Controlled Substances Act has become more than out dated. Since its implementation, marijuana has become legalized in some capacity in 23 states and Washington D.C. Since it has become a viable industry in those states it would seem reasonable to allow businesses to let the public know they have marijuana for sale. The simple addition of allowing the public to operate “in accordance to state laws”, as the Congress members have requested, seems to allow for the fairest and most reasonable progress to be made for all concerned.



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