The marijuana industry has blossomed from a back alley trade to a thriving $3 billion industry, but the U.S. Postal Service just told the newspaper industry they wouldn’t be cashing in.
Recreational marijuana is legal in Oregon, but not at the federal level and that’s what prompted the Portland USPS office to issue a warning to area newspapers not to run paid marijuana ads, according to Fox News.
“The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) makes it a felony for any person 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, which includes marijuana.”
The memo upset and confused local Oregon newspapers, which had welcomed the new source of advertising revenue.
Many newspapers in neighboring-state Washington have been running marijuana ads since 2012, when the state legalized the drug, and their Oregon counterparts were hoping to take advantage of the same revenue stream.
The state’s recreational marijuana shops have been paying for ads on area billboards, on websites and on TV. The newspaper industry, however, needs the postal service to deliver their product and that gives them power, EO Media Group CEO Steve Forrester told the Register Guard.
For our weekly in Washington state, Chinook Observer, it’s a large deal. They’re about a 6,000 circulation (paper). Half of it goes through the mail, which is true of a lot of rural weeklies.
Now, many Oregon newspapers have been forced to put their marijuana advertising plans on hold as they contemplate the situation. It wasn’t immediately clear what effect this would have on local newspapers, if they needed to stop running the marijuana ads immediately or how the USPS intended to enforce the law.
Long Beach Postmaster Mark Scarborough referred to the memo as a “reminder of existing federal law” and noted that it was “not a directive,” according to the Register Guard.
— Dave Enna (@Dave_Enna) December 2, 2015
Congressional Oregon lawmakers have demanded the USPS explain the memo and clarify their position, but so far no answers have been given, Rep. Earl Blumenauer told Marijuana.com.
Regardless of how you feel about our failed prohibition of marijuana, every American should agree that the U.S. Postal Service should not be censoring what is or is not published in newspapers.
The lawmakers also questioned whether the USPS had contacted the Drug Enforcement Administration or the Department of Justice. They question whether the memo will be issued in all 50 states or if each postal district has the ability to enforce its own rules.
The situation highlights the problems associated with a drug that is legal in some states, but illegal on the federal level; five states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana while 23 other states have loosened restrictions.
Oregon legalized medical marijuana use in 1998 and recreational use in 2014, that law took effect in July and the state is still working through a number of problems. Retail marijuana shops like the ones in Washington and Colorado won’t open until next year.
The federal government has been moving to protect state’s rights to legalize marijuana, including a Justice Department memo instructing attorney generals to focus on other problems instead of prosecuting pot offenders.
The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment also stops the DEA from using federal funds to prohibit states from legalizing marijuana within their own borders.
So far, there has been no response from the USPS or added clarification after the first memo. Stay tuned to the Inquisitr for information as the story develops.
[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]